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Important Questions to Ask Before Visiting Reopened Nursing Homes

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AARP Virginia is advising folks visiting nursing facilities to ask questions about safety first. (Adobe stock)
AARP Virginia is advising folks visiting nursing facilities to ask questions about safety first. (Adobe stock)
July 28, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginia enters the third phase of its COVID-19 recovery this week, some nursing homes finally are lifting restrictions for visitors. AARP Virginia is urging visitors eager to see loved ones for the first time in months to take necessary precautions.

Jim Dau, state director with the organization, said folks need to prepare themselves to make sure their visits are safe. He said the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has provided facilities with recommendations about resuming in-person visits, and people should ask nursing homes questions about this guidance.

"These include: Has it been at least 28 days without a new COVID-19 case in the facility? Are there declining cases in the surrounding community? And, of course, are there regular testing opportunities for residents?" Dou said.

He added one of the most critical issues to ask about is whether the facility has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for staff and visitors. Folks also should inquire about required health checks.

Dau said the gradual reopenings, nursing-home visits will look different now. People should expect to have to make appointments, have limited amounts of time for face-to-face visits, and to practice social distancing. But he noted making connections with nursing home residents can still make a huge difference in their lives after months of isolation.

"You hear stories about people whose loved ones have died in these facilities without having had any kind of contact with their loved ones. It's just heartbreaking," he said. "So this kind of connection is truly, truly important. And whether it's in person or whether it's going to be virtual, the most important part is that these connections continue to be safe."

As of July 15, 1,180 COVID-19 deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities in Virginia, according to state data. That's almost 60% of the total COVID deaths reported in the Commonwealth.

Disclosure: AARP Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard/Cynthia Bishop Jonas, Public News Service - VA