REGIONAL- For the first time since long-term care facilities were locked down four months ago to combat the spread of COVID-19, residents will soon be able to receive family and others inside those …
REGIONAL- For the first time since long-term care facilities were locked down four months ago to combat the spread of COVID-19, residents will soon be able to receive family and others inside those facilities.
The Minnesota Department of Health today released new guidance for designating family members or others to serve as “essential caregivers” for residents of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. People designated as essential caregivers will have expanded access to help ensure that the residents’ full range of emotional, social and physical needs are met.
Since mid-March, visitor restrictions have been in place in long-term care settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, balancing COVID-19 safety and visitation restrictions with the well-being of residents is an urgent priority to limit unintended harms of social isolation.
“Minnesota families have made great sacrifices to control the spread of COVID-19 in our long-term care facilities. I know this has been hard,” said Governor Tim Walz. “But with this guidance, families will be able to reunite with their loved ones while continuing to protect the health of our elderly Minnesotans.”
An essential caregiver could be a family member, outside caregiver, friend or volunteer who has provided regular care and support to the resident before or during the pandemic. Residents can have more than one essential caregiver for providing emotional support and individualized, person-centered care.
“One of the most difficult things about COVID-19 for our residents has been the prolonged separation from families and loved ones,” said Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota. “With the virus still very much a threat in our communities, we can’t throw open wide our doors, but we can take this interim step of welcoming back designated family members and others to our caregiving teams. We remain vigilant in our infection control and prevention efforts and look forward to the day when more widely available testing and other tools can help us expand visitation even more.”
Providers must talk to residents about their wishes to determine whom to designate as an essential caregiver, and facilities should establish policies for identifying and using essential caregivers no later than July 25, 2020.
The guidelines require caregivers to sign in and be screened prior to entering the building, just like facility staff. Caregivers must frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer and wear all necessary personal protective equipment while in the building (minimally eye protection and face mask). Facilities may restrict or revoke caregiver status if the caregiver fails to follow infection prevention rules. However, facilities are expected to talk to caregivers and attempt to address concerns before restricting or revoking visitations.
MDH developed the guidance in partnership with stakeholders including Care Providers of Minnesota, LeadingAge Minnesota, the Office of Ombudsman for Long Term Care and other consumer advocate groups.