By Dr. Eboni Green. This article originally appeared on Caregiver Support Services.
COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult to visit your loved one if they live in a nursing home or are in the hospital. While these restrictions exist to keep everyone safe, it can be emotionally distressing for both you and your loved one to go for extended periods of time without seeing one another. The following are helpful tips that you can use to approach the issue of visiting your loved one in a hospital or nursing home during COVID-19:
Family Caregivers are Essential
Nursing homes and hospitals have enacted policies to protect workers, patients, and family caregivers from COVID-19. But it often leaves family caregivers in a tough situation. Recognizing the social isolation and distress that you and your loved one may experience, some states have enacted essential caregiver legislation. The goal of recognizing essential caregivers is to bring loved ones together with family members, who are unintentionally caught in the middle of policies meant to protect them.
Since policies differ from facility to facility and from state to state, the best approach to keep both you and your loved one safe is to follow the same guidelines as the workers in the facility where your loved one resides. Next, determine whether your facility has an essential caregiver policy and find out what its procedures are. If the facility does not have a policy for essential caregivers, check to see if the state has a policy. In addition, if you are unable to locate anything in your state perhaps you can impact change by becoming an advocate for implementing a policy in your community.
Learn as Much as you can About Facility Policies
Policies may vary from facility to facility, as it is up to individual facilities to enact their policies. However, as a caregiver, you should expect for policies to follow guidance issued by the CDC. Included in the guidance provided by the CDC is for organizations to provide alternate ways to communicate with your loved one who resides in a nursing home or who is hospitalized. For example, facilities may opt to provide alternative ways to communicate such as, video calls. Video calls are a way to connect with loved ones visually. Even if the facility is not equipped, it is easy to obtain an inexpensive tablet to use specifically for video calls. If it is permissible, another option is to arrange a visit outdoors, if your loved one resides in a nursing home.
Watch the video
What Should you do if the Facility allows you to Visit?
If the facility does allow you to come in to visit your loved one:
- Be prepared to go through screening, education, and training about COVID-19 signs and symptoms. This is intended to assess those at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
- Wear a mask and make sure to call ahead to the facility to ask if they can provide PPE. If PPE is in short supply, you may be responsible for obtaining your own.
- Make sure the nursing home or hospital provides you with updates regarding what they are doing to address reducing the spread of infection.
- Get your COVID-19 vaccine or make sure your loved one has received theirs, if possible.
Join a Caregiver Advocacy Group
If these things do not work, consider joining an activist group like Caregivers for Compromise. There are so many people impacted by visitation restrictions related to COVID-19, you may be able to identify solutions by talking to others who share similar experiences.
Contact your Long-term Care Ombudsman
Each state has a Long-term Care Ombudsman’s office, who’s primary goal is protecting the rights of individuals residing in long-term care facilities. In addition to their advocacy work your state’s Long-term Care Ombudsman provides education, promotes the development of family counsels, and helps resolve complaints. Should you find that you are having trouble resolving issues related to being able to see your loved one, you are encouraged to reach out to them for assistance.
Caregiving during a pandemic is challenging. Always keep your safety as well as your loved one’s in mind when it comes to caregiving activities. Do not be afraid to advocate for your loved one if needed.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.