South Dakota’s families feel the current guidelines around rules for Assisted Living and Long Term Care visitation is not being publicized, thus not allowing for the resident and families to receive the guidance that would grant access to people who can best advocate for their loved ones physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Prior to a couple of weeks ago, South Dakotan families hadn’t heard of the term essential caregiver and those who knew what a compassionate care visit was, hadn’t been notified by the facility.
Since September 25, The South Dakota Back to Normal Plan allows for essential caregiver visits “An essential caregiver is an individual(s) whether family or friend who previously was actively involved with the resident and/or was committed to providing companionship or assisting in the activities of daily living of the resident.” By following a person-centered approach, visitation can occur safely based on the CMS guidance.
It’s been 5 months since this information has been available to South Dakotan’s Long Term Care (LTC) and Assisted Living (AL) residents and their families, yet none of it has been disseminated to the people who need it most.
HB1139 bill would allow families to have access to the same documents as soon as the facilities receive them. It will provide transparency and restore the relationships between facilities and family members as well as allow families the chance to be more pro-active in advocating for their loved ones while providing accountability to the facilities.
In the most recent Back to Normal Plan Page 3 under Indoor Visitation says that LTC facilities should accommodate and support indoor visitation, including visits for reasons beyond compassionate care situations, based on the guidelines. That same section also says that movement in the facility should go directly to the resident’s room.
CMS memo QSO-20-39, page 2 under guidance states that visitation can be in resident rooms and can be for circumstances beyond compassionate care situations following Core Principles of Covid 19 infection prevention. Visitation should be person-centered, consider the residents’ physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. Nursing homes should enable visits to be conducted with an adequate degree of privacy.
What is outlined in the Back to Normal Plan doesn’t begin to mirror what is happening in reality. Essential caregivers have not had in-room visits to provide companionship or assist in the activities of daily living of the residents. Visitation has been supervised and monitored by staff allowing no degree of privacy. Rules are also inconsistent from one facility to another with similar facility size and residents. One facility allows a family member to accompany a loved one to their medical appointment with no quarantine as long as the transport is conducted by facility staff. In the second facility, if a family member even accompanies a loved one to a medical appointment, their loved one is quarantined for 14 days. This inconsistency causes distrust between the families and the facilities.
We want facility directors to retain their autonomy and be allowed to make decisions regarding their facilities, yet allow in-person, in-room visits who can provide companionship according to the Back to Normal plan.
Families in South Dakota who have loved one’s in AL and LTC facilities will support this bill. We all want transparency in policy that will allow us to make the best decisions for our loved ones, and that’s exactly what House Bill 1139 does for South Dakota’s families.