Ohio nursing home visiting rules ease, though federal guidelines remain

Widows Home of Dayton residents gather together in the nursing home. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Widows Home of Dayton residents gather together in the nursing home. CONTRIBUTED

Pandemic visiting rules for Ohio nursing homes and assisted living facilities have continued to loosen as cases slow, but facilities are still following federal guidance which comes with some restrictions.

As of June 18, the state visiting regulations were removed by the DeWine administration. The state said this allowed residents to have more than two visitors, and there is no longer a state mandated scheduling requirement.

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However, Ohio nursing homes are expected to continue to follow federal guidance from the U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and both nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be expected to follow CDC guidance. This means there are still some rules in place.

Also, a testing requirement still remains for staff members who are unvaccinated, and they will need to continue to be tested twice per week.

Denise Emo, whose mother-in-law moved to Trinity Community at Beavercreek in the middle of the pandemic, said her family has been impressed with how well the facility has worked with them and they’ve been able to see her and take her to doctor’s appointments.

Emo said the staff followed the health orders and communicated well with the family.

“They’re great people,” she said.

Linda Roepken, with Widows Home of Dayton, said the nursing home has set up the parlor for visitation and families make appointments to visit safely in that room.

“We want to make sure that our residents, as well as their loved ones are safe as can be,” Roekpen said.

The small nonprofit nursing home is also seeking to bring back some volunteers safely outside to help with some landscaping and flower planting to brighten up the facility for residents.

Back in the winter, in the peak of the pandemic, cases and outbreaks were common in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around Ohio. Even in homes that diligently followed precautions, staff who didn’t have symptoms could accidently bring the virus into a facility where it could quickly spread among vulnerable residents and workers.

The tradeoff though was difficult and isolating for many residents.

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“Every day, we go home to our families, and they weren’t able to do that,” said Dr. Robert Morrison, Dayton VA chief of Geriatrics and Extended Care Services, who is in charge of their nursing home.

Since vaccination started and the pandemic started to slow, restrictions have been gradually rolled back in Ohio.

The Dayton VA, which follows separate federal guidance for its nursing homes, has also been having more visits from families at its Community Living Center. They ask families to call in advance and visit in a designated area, and have outdoor and indoor visiting area.

Morrison said they haven’t had a COVID-19 case since April 22 and that patient recovered from the virus. He said almost 100% of everyone at the nursing home is vaccinated.

He said while in the past, families were able to do more like come in and straighten up a family member’s room, which they can’t do yet.

“But we certainly encourage that they talk as much as they want to, and visit as much as they can,” Morrison said.

How to get help

The Dayton-area Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program can help with questions and advocate for resident and family concerns. The office can be reached at (937) 223-4613 or 1-800-395-8267.