The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and the Illinois Department of Health (“IDPH”) have set guidelines for healthcare facilities, including nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing. These guidelines include visitor restrictions for the facilities. In a nutshell, if you are not considered an essential healthcare employee or a compassionate care visitor for end of life situations, you are not going to get near one of these facilities until…well we are not sure.
These guidelines have been put in place for the safety of the residents and employees, and understandably so. On the other hand, this guidance is missing clarity. The states (including Illinois) and, in-turn, the facilities are left to interpret what the definition of an essential healthcare employee and a compassionate care visitor means. Is a third-party caregiver an essential healthcare employee? Is being placed in hospice, in and of itself, considered an end of life situation? Based on experience over the past few weeks, the answer is no. It should be noted, though, that there is no real legal authority stating such. We are facing a time where loved ones could pass away alone because a facility did not interpret the guidelines to allow a visitor in such a situation. Seeking the courts guidance on the matter may be necessary. Until then, the facilities are given the freedom and flexibility to interpret the guidelines as they see fit.
What can you do until then? Often times, loved ones of the residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities provide care, love, and encouragement to them. During this time, more than ever, this encouragement and love is essential to the resident’s well-being. If you have a loved one in a facility, what can you do during this critical time? Technology has allowed us to connect with people in ways we never could before. Calling and video chatting with loved ones can provide them with the emotional support they need. Just the sound of a loved one’s voice can bring a smile to a resident’s face. Online games can be played together as well. While we are getting back to the basics during this time, writing a good old fashioned letter is a great option as well.