OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Caucus Chair State Rep. Tammy West, R-Oklahoma City, today commented on revised visitation policies for long-term care facilities by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
The department on Wednesday revised its phased reopening guidance for the facilities to support their efforts to balance the need to protect residents from COVID-19 while ensuring healthy social and emotional connections with family and friends during the ongoing pandemic.
“This announcement of improved visitation, care and supervision is welcome news for the many Oklahomans in our long-term care facilities and those who play vital roles in caring for their loved ones,” West said. “These positive changes will help reverse some of the negative effects suffered from isolation forced by quarantine during this time of pandemic.”
OSDH’s revised guidance includes significant changes to allow for better coordination regarding visitation, both virtually and in-person. Major changes include:
- Establishing guidelines for compassionate care visits and essential caregiver visits that go beyond end-of-life care and now include visits for psycho-social needs and assisting with daily care needs.
- Requiring the facility to allow virtual visitation at least twice weekly, or more as may be necessary to ensure resident wellbeing.
- Ensuring family members are made aware of visitation policies and any changes to them.
- Ensuring the state long-term care ombudsmen are allowed into facilities to investigate issues related to quality of care.
The full guidance is available here: https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc786/f/ltc_reopening_guidance_20200828.pdf.
JoeAnn Vermillion, AARP Volunteer State President, said the changes are a big improvement.
“This really helps those family members who are closely involved with the care of their loved ones as well as meeting the emotional and social needs of residents across our state,” she said. “Combined with the return of onsite visitation by the state long-term care ombudsmen, family members now have more opportunities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their loved ones.”
West strongly encourages family members to contact their nursing home administrator to explore the options now available to them to enhance the care provided to their loved ones. Difficulties in connecting with loved ones should be reported to OSDH – Long-term Care Services at (405) 271-6868 or LTC@health.ok.gov .
Long-term care facilities include residential care and assisted living facilities, adult day care, nursing and skilled nursing facilities, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities.
West recently held an interim study before the House Health Services and Long-Term Care Committee that examined the needs of residents in long-term care centers related to COVID-19. Numerous presenters spoke about the devastating mental and emotional health effects of residents suffering from isolation factors forced by quarantine.
In the study, Chad Mullen, associate state director of advocacy with AARP Oklahoma, shared statistics that show 3.6% of total COVID-19 cases are residents in long-term care facilities; 42% of deaths are among that same population.
Additional research shows that social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, rivaling even deaths caused by smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. Social isolation also is associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia, a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide also are linked to loneliness, as is an increased risk of hospitalization or emergency room visits.
West said while the new guidance doesn’t open the floodgates for visits, “There are now at least a few more ways to lay eyes on your loved one and make sure they are doing okay.”