Aging committee hears update on family visitation in long-term care

Vaccinations continue to paint a brighter picture for Minnesota’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Over the past three months, COVID-19 infections in long-term care facilities have dropped 97%, reaching their lowest point since April 2020. Nearly every facility in the state has had the opportunity for residents and staff to receive at least one dose, and second dose appointments continue.

The Senate’s Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee heard from the Minnesota Department of Health and long-term care providers on vaccines and family visitations. Members were glad to hear of the significant uptake from residents, with nearly 90% opting for vaccination. More concerning to members were the reports showing only 50% of staff have opted for vaccination so far. Provider groups said they hope to get at least 75% of staff vaccinated and are working on one-on-one counseling options for staff to listen to concerns and share information about these vaccines. 

Also discussed was the pathway for reopening to allow more indoor visitation. While window visits, outdoor visits, and essential caregiver visitation have been ongoing since last summer, broader visitation guidance has depended on any outbreaks or exposures at the facility and community spread levels in the area.

Residents and loved ones are anxious to have more family visit options after nearing a year of health and safety restrictions. Even with current the options in place, for many it has been almost a year since visitors have been able to hug their loved ones or even hold their hand. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released recommendations this week that nursing homes allow indoor visits at all times and for all residents, with a few exceptions. The Minnesota Department of Health is reviewing these recommendations and should be releasing more guidance shortly.