Senator Champagne Urges Governor to Listen to Advocates, Expand Nursing Home Visitation for All Residents

August 28, 2020

Sen. Champagne joined with all 14 members of the Connecticut Senate Republican Caucus to urge the Governor to listen to advocates who say the state’s nursing home visitation policy is not enough to combat the dangers of social isolation on the health and wellbeing of nursing home residents

HARTFORD – Today State Senator Dan Champagne (R-35)  joined with all 14 members of the Connecticut Senate Republican Caucus wrote to Governor Ned Lamont asking him to reconsider his administration’s policies on nursing home visitation to allow for safe indoor family visits for all residents, not just residents who are near death or who have recently declined.

“The elderly in our nursing homes do not have time on their side, and they deserve to be able to see their loved ones. The negative impact of isolation on mental and physical health can be just as dangerous as the pandemic itself and must not be overlooked,” the Republican senators wrote in a letter outlining the dangers of continued isolation from family on vulnerable seniors’ physical and mental health citing research on social isolation and personal accounts from constituents.

“We appreciate the guidance from the Department of Public Health issued yesterday which clarifies how outdoor visits should occur and expands ‘compassionate care visits’… However, the order falls short of allowing for visits between nursing home residents and family members before a decline in physical health or wellbeing occurs,” the lawmakers wrote. “Visits with loved ones should not have to wait until a person’s health has further deteriorated. The value of family visits is that they can help prevent such deterioration from occurring in the first place.”

“While many of the measures you have taken are well intentioned, some in regard to our nursing homes are deeply disturbing and the policies in place do not acknowledge the resulting damage and the risk residents experience. Some of these effects are just as damaging to a person’s wellbeing as the COVID-19 virus itself, speeding up decline, diminishing capacity, and negatively impacting other aspects of personal health. Your actions have been tied exclusively to the virus, as if the virus is the only threat seniors in nursing homes face when it comes to their health and wellbeing. There are other threats that need attention too,” the senators wrote to the Governor.

“We believe it is imperative that yesterday’s order be expanded so that family visits can be prioritized for all nursing home residents. Family members and loved ones are the ‘eyes and ears’ of elderly individuals, especially persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. When a person with dementia does not have the ability to interact with their loved ones and what is familiar to them, their capacity diminishes, further accelerating decline. Forcing a person to wait until their capacity diminishes to see their family is the complete opposite strategy of patient centered care we should be embracing. With family members not being allowed to visit, other health issues can go unnoticed and worsen.”

The lawmakers raised the following concerns regarding yesterday’s new guidance:

  • The order issued yesterday still does not allow for visitation for residents who are not near death and who would prefer to have an in-person visit indoors due to reasons such as mobility issues. The order only allows for indoor visits when a resident is near death or has seen a significant decline in health. This ignores the importance of family visits in preventing deterioration of physical and mental health.
  • The order does not address what happens when the weather turns colder in a few months and outdoor visits can no longer occur.
  • Compassionate care visits can only occur if a facility has not had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days. If someone is near death on day 13 of no COVID-19 cases they can’t be visited. However, when visits do occur, they “shall be permitted without regard for strict social distancing requirements, allowing the resident and the visitors to touch each other, provided the resident and the visitors wear all appropriate personal protection equipment throughout the visit, as identified and provided by the nursing home facility in accordance with its visitation policy.” This seems to be inconsistent policy.

Click here to read the full letter.