New policy for indoor visits at long-term care facilities will not apply to Malheur yet

Long-term care facilities in Oregon must begin allowing limited indoor visitation beginning Monday, November 2, 2020 unless there are documented health or safety concerns tied to coronavirus spread. Read the new policy here. Because Malheur County has COVID-19 positivity rates over 10%, “visitation may only include compassionate care situations.” If the positivity rate dropped below 10%, the new policy would apply.

The Oregon Department of Human Services announced the new policy to help ensure greater access to nursing, assisted living and other care facilities. The change comes after months of visitation restrictions meant to slow spread among vulnerable residents left some residents and families feeling isolated from loved ones.

“The indoor visitation policy has many layers to it that strike a balance between safety and the essential need for families and friends to connect,” Mike McCormick, interim director of the state division overseeing care facilities, said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor outbreaks closely and will modify the policy if that is warranted.”

Oregon began restricting access to care facilities in March, offering visits in only limited circumstances, before officials in July allowed outdoor visitation.

The new policy requires care facilities to allow two guests to visit a resident indoors at the same time. Visitors should be screened with a temperature check or detailed questions about exposure, and they are supposed to wear face masks during the visit, wash hands and practice physical distancing. But visitor access doesn’t apply if there are documented concerns at a facility or within the broader community. Facilities with an active outbreak or testing for an outbreak cannot welcome visitors indoors, for example. The policy also prohibits indoor visits in counties with test positivity rates above 10%, based on federal data.

In Oregon, only Malheur County exceeds that threshold using federal data.

Counties with high positivity rates must still allow “compassionate care” visits, which could include end-of-life situations or for residents who need emotional support.

  • Compassionate Care Visits: End-of-life situations have been used as examples of compassionate care, though the term does not exclusively refer to end-of-life situations. Examples of other types of compassionate care situations include, but are not limited to:
  • A resident who was living with their family before recently being admitted to a nursing home, is struggling with the change in environment and lack of physical family support.
  • A resident who is grieving after a friend or family member recently passed away.
  • A resident who needs cueing and encouragement with eating or drinking, previously provided by family and/or caregiver(s), is experiencing weight loss or dehydration.
  • A resident, who used to talk and interact with others, is experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently (when the resident had rarely cried in the past).

Allowing visits in these situations would be consistent with the intent of “compassionate care situations.” In addition to family members, compassionate care visits may be conducted by any individual who meets a resident’s specified needs, such as clergy or lay persons offering religious and spiritual support. This is not an exhaustive list, and other valid compassionate care situations may be identified.

Article adapted from “Oregon to ‘proceed with caution,’ allowing indoor visits at long-term care facilities” by Brad Schmidt, The Oregonian, and NF-20-140 provider alert from Oregon Department of Human Services.

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