Care homes in England to name relatives as key workers to allow visits

Relatives of care home residents in England are to be designated as key workers so they can be tested regularly for Covid-19 and continue to visit loved ones.

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Photograph: Robin Weaver/Alamy

The plans, initially a pilot project, with no details about how they would be rolled out, were announced to MPs on Tuesday by the care minister, Helen Whately. They are a win for families and charities that have been calling for months for relatives to be given the same key worker status as staff.

Along with testing, the single designated relative would be trained in the use of PPE, she said, although she was unable to give a date for when the pilot would begin.

Organisations including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society have been calling for such a move, arguing in a letter to the government in July that the care given by family members was essential to dementia patients’ wellbeing. Social distancing restrictions had contributed to a “hidden catastrophe” in care homes, which had been closed to non-essential visitors since March, they said.

Whately has been challenged at the science and technology committee and health and social care committee over mistakes and mishandling that led to a huge Covid-19 death toll in care homes this year.

Jeremy Hunt, the former Conservative health minister who chaired the sitting, put it to her that care homes should have been banned from taking transfers from hospitals where tests were unavailable, or if it had not been possible to quarantine the person, as was the case in Germany.

“I know it’s very easy to say things with hindsight, but looking back we should have done that here, shouldn’t we?” he asked.

She replied that this would not happen now, and that the Department for Health had

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State lifts curbs on indoor visits to senior homes, but urges caution

Despite an alarming surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Tim Walz’s administration is rolling back a heart-wrenching policy that prevented families from visiting their loved ones in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities during the pandemic.

The Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidelines Monday that allow indoor visits at most senior homes that have not had new COVID-19 infections in the preceding two weeks and the infection rate in the surrounding county is no more than 10%. But the state recommends that long-term care facilities limit how many visitors a resident can have at one time, as well as the duration of indoor visits.

The guidance was issued in response to a new federal policy and significantly eases restrictions in place since March, when nursing homes and assisted-living complexes across the state shut down and barred family visits in an attempt to protect older residents who are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory infection. As the pandemic wore on, advocates for residents and their families have been clamoring for an end to the lockdown, noting that many elderly residents have suffered anxiety and depression, as well as physical decline since the ban was imposed.

In Minnesota, and across much of the nation, the seven-month lockdown has turned many senior homes into small fortresses, with only staff and essential caregivers allowed inside. For months, many anguished residents have only been able to talk to their relatives via remote video feeds or through cracks in windows. Such limited interactions have failed to ease the anxiety of many who suffered from dementia, or those who simply wanted to hug or kiss their relatives, say eldercare advocates.

“We are really looking to make sure that we do everything that we can to have the residents and families be able to connect with one another,” said Lindsey

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Nursing homes prepare for indoor visits during coronavirus pandemic

Maryland nursing homes and assisted living facilities are gearing up for indoor family visits after Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the ban on indoor visitors on Thursday.

a bedroom with a bed and a chair in a room: Bedroom in a nursing home, bed, walker

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Saint Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing is planning to open its doors to family members next week.

That will happen following strict guidelines set up by the federal government and the state of Maryland. The staff and families seem excited for the reopening.

With messages like “spreading kindness not germs,” Saint Elizabeth’s nursing center is preparing for indoor family visits.

“For us, our visits will be in our neighborhoods, our units,” Aileen McShea Tinney, of Catholic Charities senior services, said.

Hogan announced the restart.

“Indoor visitation can begin again in nursing homes not experiencing outbreaks and have not experienced new positive cases in the last 14 days,” the governor said.

Lori Barnard expressed her joy now that she can go inside a Mount Airy nursing home and see her 94-year-old grandmother Louise.

“I cried. I was so excited,” Barnard said.

Saint Elizabeth’s nursing center will allow 45-minute visits.

“Clean the space where visits happened so we can welcome the next family in,” McShea Tinney said.

While anticipating visits, staff members at nursing homes are still trying to be extremely careful.

“Our facility had cases, had deaths, no one wants to go back in that direction,” McShea Tinney said.

Under federal and state guidelines:

  • Nursing homes must schedule visits that will take place in specific, designated areas.
  • Visitors must wear masks and may be required to wear other personal protective equipment.
  • The facilities must limit the number of visitors per resident and number of
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Texas taps federal funds to help nursing homes buy equipment to expand COVID-era visits

AUSTIN — State officials announced Friday they will help nursing homes tap $3.5 million in federal funds to buy equipment that would allow more visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Monday, certified nursing homes in Texas can apply for up to $3,000 each toward purchasing plexiglass barriers for expanded indoor visits and tents to accommodate more safe gatherings outdoors, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Health and Human Services Commission announced.

Texas has 1,213 such homes, said commission spokeswoman Christine Mann.

The $3.5 million is part of a bigger pool of funds the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services took in after slapping fines on nursing homes that violate federal rules, officials said.

The move comes a few weeks after Abbott announced plans – which took effect Sept. 24 – for up to two “essential caregivers” to resume indoor visits, provided they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 in the last two weeks. Those visits are allowed without a plexiglass divider, as the caregivers do things such as clean hearing aids.

But the state is still requiring relatives and visitors who are not essential caregivers to be separated from the resident at all times by a plexiglass barrier.

Such visits are only allowed in a county with a COVID-19 positivity rate of 10% or less.

Cindy Goleman walks up to the window of her mother Peggy White from outside the window at The Pavilion at Creekwood, a healthcare and rehabilitation center in Mansfield, Texas on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Peggy White had a stroke in late January. Cindy Goleman is one of those people with parents and/or loved ones in nursing homes, hospitals or skilled healthcare facilities who can't visit in person. Goleman visits by looking through the window as she talks to her on the phone. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

The head of a leading nursing home trade group welcomed the state-administered federal stipends, saying “providers understand the importance” of resuming visits.

“Everyone wants to see this work,” said Kevin Warren, president of the Texas Health Care Association.

But one advocate of more rapidly expanded family visits, Mary Nichols of Forney, the state needs to stop foot-dragging by some nursing homes on allowing designated caregiver visits.

“If a facility gets $3,000, I hope they spend it all on tents — because I don’t approve of the plexiglass

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Family reacts as Maryland allows indoor visits at nursing homes

Under Gov. Larry Hogan’s new orders, effective immediately, Marylanders can now visit loved ones inside of nursing homes, but it comes with some guidelines.

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“This has been extremely hard for her and she doesn’t really understand. She’s 94. She doesn’t get — ‘I lived through blah, blah, blah. Why can’t you come?’” said Lori Barnard, whose grandmother is in a nursing home.

Each day without being by her grandmother’s side is one too many.

“I’m used to seeing her three times a week, so this has been a big struggle for me,” Barnard said.

The four-year stay of Barnard’s grandmother, Louise, at her Mount Airy nursing home rattled as, like many other facilities and areas coronavirus crept in, leaving the entire state grappling over the virus.

“They have to alternate who goes because everything’s timed, but my grandmother is used to somebody being there every day,” Barnard said.

“Across the nation, nursing homes became ground zero in the fight against COVID-19,” Hogan said.

But now, with improving numbers, Hogan is ordering restrictions on indoor visitation at nursing homes to be lifted, effective immediately, but for specific facilities, “…that are not experiencing a current outbreak, or that have not experienced any new positive cases in the last 14 days,” he said.

The news is encouraging for Barnard’s family, who believes the decision could bring them closer to their matriarch.

“I cried. Like, I was so excited. But I also know it’s up to the facility and they are going to do what’s best for her,” Barnard said. “Mentally, more than anything, this wears on the elderly. Like, they’re alone. It’s been a few

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