Florida set to resume visits to long-term care facilities

'I'm confident we can safely reopen visitation,' Gov. DeSantis says
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Posted at 10:49 AM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 00:33:58-04

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday during a roundtable discussion he is set to approve a plan to resume visits to long-term care facilities for the first time since the spring.

RELATED: Families closer to seeing loved ones living in long-term care centers

Last week the state task force tabbed with reopening facilities to visitors sent a plan to DeSantis with guidelines for limited visitation.

During Tuesday's announcement, the governor was joined by members of the task force during a roundtable discussion at ElderSource in Jacksonville.

An emotional moment occurred when the governor talked about the six months that residents have been apart from their family members.

"Many of the folks understand that they have loved ones who are in the last stage of their life. They are not demanding a medical miracle … they would just like to say goodbye or to hug somebody," DeSantis said.

Long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, have been closed to visitors since the coronavirus pandemic started in the spring.

Among the guidelines for visits to long-term care facilities:

  • All visitors will have to wear PPE and be screened before the visit. Visitors must bring their own PPE
  • All visits will be by appointment only
  • Two visitors will be allowed at a time with a total of five visitors per day
  • No minors will be allowed to visit at this time
  • No facility can allow visits until 14 days have passed without a confirmed coronavirus case from a resident or staff member unless the visitor is an "essential caregiver"

The governor said he plans to sign the plan by the end of Tuesday, but it will be up to each facility to be ready to abide by these rules.

“The Task Force thoughtfully constructed a blueprint for the safe reopening of long-term care facilities," said DeSantis. "Limiting visitation at these facilities was a very difficult decision that took an emotional toll on families and residents, especially on those who suffer from cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s. With the right precautions in place, I'm confident we can safely re-open visitation at these facilities and reunite families who have been so patient throughout this process."

Click here to read the full 14-page list of recommendations released by the task force to allow visits to long-term care facilities in Florida.

Sisters Tina Brooks and Tascha Reeves, who live on the Treasure Coast, said they have not seen their mother in her nursing home for more than six months.

"I went once a week, but my stepfather, her husband, went every day," Brooks said.

They said their mother, who has dementia, looked forward to daily visits. They are eager to see her again and be able to verify in person that she has been receiving the level of care they expect.

Karen Nelson is the vice president of operations for Your Life Senior Living Communities, including Your Life Memory Care in Stuart.

"So happy and relieved," Nelson said.

She has seen the impact the visitation ban had not only on families, but on the overall well-being of residents.

Florida set to resume visits to long-term care facilities

Nelson said Your Life Memory Care has ordered more protective equipment to accommodate visitors and keep residents safe.

That includes enhancing outside space where visitation is safest, adding fans, coolers for water and protective barriers.

"We are COVID-free in all of our communities right now, knock on wood," Nelson said. "Our hope and our intent is to manage it the best we can so we stay that way, so we can have the visitors come in."

She is hopeful to start scheduling visitors in the next few days, but only after reviewing all of their plans with the Florida Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.