FAIRBORN — As Greene County moved to a Level 3 (red) public health advisory, nursing homes around the area have had to halt or alter their plans to resume indoor in-person visitation for their residents.
In Gov. Mike DeWine’s Sept. 24 press conference, he said individual long-term care facilities could reopen indoor visiting “to their comfort level” beginning Oct. 12. However, the governor announced on Thursday that Greene County had moved from a Level 2 to Level 3 public health advisory, just three days after the scheduled reopening date.
Most nursing homes around the country have allowed outdoor or window visits for the past few months. However, meeting with loved ones outside becomes less and less viable as the weather turns colder. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities house some of the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19, but also have to weigh the mental health impact of being unable to see family during this time.
Amy Bonacuse, director of communications for United Church Homes, said that administrators are taking steps to reduce the mental health impact of the pandemic. United Church Homes is the parent organization of Trinity Community in Fairborn, formerly known as Patriot Ridge.
“We have been getting feedback from administrators that COVID is taking its toll on both residents and frontline care workers,” Bonacuse said. “We are currently thinking about putting measures in place to deal with that emotional impact.”
Trinity Community for the past few months has been able to resume some normal activities. Residents have been able to eat in the dining room with tables appropriately distanced from one another. Residents play hallway bingo, and staff has held concerts and singing digitally.
“Our staff have been doing a wonderful job, but they’re not a replacement for loved ones,” Bonacuse said. “Our residents have missed their families, and families miss their residents. It’s not the same over the phone.”
Trinity had started indoor visits on Monday, following CMS guidelines determined by Medicare and Medicaid. These guidelines indicate that visitation can continue as long as there are no active cases at the facility and 14 days have passed since the last negative test, according to CMS documents. However, one Trinity staff member tested positive Thursday, and the facility has since closed down visiting until further notice.
“We want to be extremely transparent,” Bonacuse said. “We provide our families with weekly updates, daily when there’s a COVID case.”
John Hamilton, the executive director at Wickshire in Fairborn, said the facility had been following a very similar protocol, with a designated room and two visitors at a time. However, with Greene County now at Level 3, visits will likely no longer be happening.
“We check to see what the status of Greene County is every morning. If we go to red we will stop visits immediately,” he said Wednesday.
Even while at orange level, Hamilton said some family members told him it was still too early.
“[Families] have said that even though face to face visits are allowed, they will still not come,” he said.
Fairborn’s Wright Rehabilitation said the facility is not doing inside visitation. However, families have been able to have window visits since the height of the pandemic in April. Residents have also utilized Facetime or Duo, according to Executive Director Greg Nijak.
“With positivity rate being so high, we will not be doing indoor visits at this time,” a spokesperson for Wright Rehab said via email.
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