Indoor visits with loved ones at Delaware long-term care facilities may resume, if a facility has not had a new positive COVID-19 test result within the past 14 days.
The Department of Health and Social Services says 26 nursing homes and assisted living facilities have received permission to facilitate outdoor visits after submitting their plans over the summer. Long-term care facilities may start submitting their plans for indoor visitation starting next week.
Visits would be limited to one or two people per resident, and would be by appointment only. Visits also must occur in a visitation room near an entrance to the building. Residents and visitors would also be required to wear face masks, practice “proper hand hygiene,” and must socially distance and not have contact.
Numerous other protocols and restrictions would be in place. DHSS released these proposed guidelines Thursday:
As indoor visitation plans are approved by the Division of Health Care Quality, long-term care facilities will make families aware that visitations can be scheduled. Among the other requirements for indoor visitation:
- Visitors must make an appointment, with only 1-2 visitors per resident allowed.
- They must check in upon arrival.
- Only residents who are negative for COVID-19 or recovered from the disease may have visitors.
- Visitors and residents must wear face masks at all times and must practice proper hand hygiene.
- All visitors must maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet and must not have contact with the resident they are visiting.
- Visitor testing is strongly encouraged, but at the discretion of each facility.
- Staff will monitor the visits to ensure safety compliance.
- Staff will disinfect the visitation area before and after each visit.
- If the facility has a COVID-19 positive case originate there, indoor visitation would be suspended until the facility again reaches the 14-day mark without a new case.
In addition, assuming no infections, long-term care facility administrators can work with each resident’s family to designate one support person – a family member or other outside caregiver – who, prior to visitor restrictions, was a regular visitor at least two times per week. The support person will be able to provide companionship and assist with such activities as bathing, grooming and meal set-up if needed.
Under the guidance provided by DHSS, long-term care facilities must follow these rules in designating one support person per resident:
- The support person should be a family member or outside caregiver (friend, volunteer, private person caregiver), age 18 or older, who provided regular care and support to the resident before the pandemic.
- The designation of the support person is at the discretion of the facility administrator and only upon agreement by the resident or his or her representative.
- A negative COVID-19 test is required before the support person can be scheduled, and the support person is subject to regular testing currently required of vendors entering all long-term care facilities.
- The schedule and amount of time in the facility must be agreed to in advance and may be one to four hours per day based on the resident’s care plan. The facility must allow evening and weekend visits in order to accommodate the support person’s schedule.
- A central point of entry must be designated where the support person signs in and is actively screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before entering the building.
- The support person must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) – a cloth face mask at all times and gloves when providing direct resident care – and must perform frequent hand hygiene. The facility will provide hand sanitizing stations and alcohol-based hand rubs.
- The support person must inform the long-term care facility if he or she develops a fever or other symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within 14 days of a planned visit with a resident.
- The support person must provide care in the resident’s room or in facility-designated area. The support person may take the resident for a walk outside, but both individuals must be wearing face masks and other appropriate PPE.
- The support person must maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet with staff and other residents while in the building.
- The facility may restrict or revoke the support person’s status if the person fails to follow social distancing, face mask or other COVID-19-related rules of the facility.