State regulations continuing to prohibit outdoor visitation; on-site services compel residents to leave communities for services and support
Guest Editorial by the Empire State Association of Assisted Living
It has been nearly four months since New York-based assisted-living communities closed to outside visitors and temporarily suspended in-community services like hair salons. As New York continues its phased reopenings, which now allow for outdoor dining, hair and nail services, assisted living residents are being forced to leave their communities to visit loved ones, and to receive services such as hair appointments – two freedoms typically allowed in assisted living communities, which provide a more independent model of long-term care.
Without any immediate timeframe for outdoor visitation to begin, many assisted living residents have begun to leave their communities for family visits, medical appointments, hair and nail appointments and dining at restaurants, increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19 and infecting other residents, employees, and the assisted living community as a whole.
“We understand and appreciate the state regulators’ caution and position to do everything they can to protect NY’s elderly as the most vulnerable population for COVID-19,” said Lisa Newcomb, ESAAL executive director. “However, at this point, we are advocating for outdoor visitation and in-community services to begin with the proper safety guidelines in place. Otherwise, residents will continue to risk their health and safety by leaving their communities.”
The Empire State Association of Assisted Living recently conducted a survey among its membership of 300 assisted living residences across New York state to determine how many residents have recently left their communities. The survey revealed 79% of NY-based assisted living providers have had one or more residents leave their community in the recent two-week period of June 15-26. When asked where residents have visited when leaving the community, the survey revealed 20% said the hair salon, 22% visited the home of family or friends, 8% went to a restaurant, and 50% said “other,” which was primarily medical appointments.
“We cannot wait for the day when our residents’ can see their loved ones again,” Newcomb said. “Our residents and their families feel very strongly on this issue, and agree that, with proper safety protocols, that visitation and services should begin again immediately.”
While the state’s prohibition on visitations currently remains, assisted living providers are planning for new processes for when residents can once again be with their loved ones. Ultimately, whether indoors or outdoors, assisted living providers will likely place more focus on ensuring safe visits by pre-scheduling appointments, limiting the number of visitors at one time, and providing adequate space to allow for social distancing.
Click here for more information on how ESAAL and its members are doing everything possible, with the resources that are available, to slow the spread of the virus in our residences.
Empire State Association of Assisted Living is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to strengthening New York state's assisted living sector and promoting the best interests of providers and residents. Founded in 1979, ESAAL is the only association that exclusively represents the assisted living industry, serving 300 assisted living residences, adult homes, enriched housing programs and assisted living programs throughout New York. These member residences are home to more than 30,000 seniors.