“Is my dad going to remember me?”: Visits at nursing homes resume next week


GREECE, NY (WROC) “I’m worried that if it goes on too much longer, what am I going to walk in and see? Is my dad going to remember me?” says Tammy O’Brien. Her father has dementia and is in a nursing home in Greece. O’Brien says family connection means everything for so many in these facilities. Nearly four months apart has caused a disruption for all.

“He’s struggling and losing his mind with no family there and how sad the decline…his memory loss has gone so far downhill,” says O’Brien.

Announced Friday, New York State will allow visitors to see their families in nursing homes, but there are four pages of conditions facilities have to follow. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • The homes must be Covid-free for a minimum of 28 days
  • Visits should be limited to outdoor areas (weather permitting), but in certain circumstances, visits can be inside.
  • All visitors will face a health screening

Rebecca Pontera with Rochester Presbyterian Home Facility says the guidelines are what they’ve been expecting, and they hope be ready come July 15.

“Our leadership team still needs to come back together, we’ll certainly be talking about it, what will our next steps be. It’ll be what makes sense not only for our population, but for each of our family members and the circumstances for each individual,” says Pontera. “So it’s incredibly important for us as staff but for our elders and families to get reconnected. It’s been hard for everybody. The emotions of not being able to see loved ones,” she adds.

“With the knowledge we now have about how COVID-19 came into nursing homes – mainly through asymptomatic staff and visitors through no fault of their own – it is critical that as we resume visitations to these facilities we do it in a smart and cautious way to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a press release. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation in each facility, and make adjustments based on the facts and data moving forward. I know how painful it has been for residents of these facilities to endure such a long period of time without seeing family and loved ones, and my hope is that this adjustment to the visitation policy will provide some comfort to everyone.”

The President of The New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents more than 400 homes across the state, says members were happy with the news Friday, saying, “We applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker for opening up nursing homes to visitation… The policies announced today, safeguard residents, staff and visitors.”

For O’Brien and so many others, they hope next week is just a solid start on a path back to normal. “We’re all just praying. The first step is good. But if we can keep that going and get back to where we were,” she says.

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