Families with loved ones in long-term care facilities seek answers over holidays

Posted at 11:44 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 23:44:02-05

TAMPA, Fla. — The holidays look different this year.

But for families with loved ones in long-term care facilities, there is even more consideration, including whether they leave the facility this Thanksgiving.

“We certainly realize the numbers are rising, we certainly realize there’s risk, I in fact have chosen not to bring Steve home for Thanksgiving, it’s a single meal for us we’re not having a big family gathering there’s really no value he doesn’t understand that it’s Thanksgiving, so it’s not worth the risk,” said Mary Daniel.

Daniel founded the group, ‘Caregivers for Compromise,’ advocating for families across Florida.

While her husband won’t be visiting home this Thanksgiving, Daniel is speaking out about frustrations with rules surrounding visits.

“We are getting a lot of mixed messages from facilities all over the state,” she said.

The state explained an emergency order in early November, saying residents can leave a long-term care facility, and will be screened when they return, including potential exposure and adherence to social distancing.

The Agency for Health Care Administration states in a facts and questions document, “If upon return, the resident does not pass screening criteria, they should be quarantined or isolated based on their circumstances consistent with CDC guidance. If the resident passes screening criteria, then they do not have to be quarantined or isolated.”

But Daniel said some families are being told their loved one has to quarantine when they return for 14 days if they leave during the holiday. She said her husband’s facility told her the same thing.

ABC Action News has reached out to the state for clarification.

Daniel said families want to follow the rules, want to keep people safe, and want consistency.

“They need to step up and provide some leadership, we’re three days away from Thanksgiving. There are many people that are told that they’re going to be able to come home for Thanksgiving, they’re excited about it, they’re looking forward to it and we’re going to have to pull this rug out right out from underneath of them,” she added.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recommend against residents leaving a nursing home.

If a resident leaves, CMS recommends limiting close contact, keeping gatherings as small as possible, using technology to engage with others remotely, wearing face coverings at all times, limiting contact with commonly touched surfaces, keeping save around food and drinks, avoiding communal items, hand hygiene, avoiding large gatherings and crowded areas and avoiding high risk activities like singing. It also recommends gatherings be People attending a gathering should avoid contact with anyone outside their home for 14 days before the gathering, and anyone with signs, symptoms or exposure of COVID-19 should not attend. You can see a full list of precautions here.

When a resident returns, CMS recommends putting a resident on transmission-based precautions if they or family report possible exposures, has symptoms or was away from the nursing home for more than 24 hours.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing centers, said facilities are educating families about the risks, and using transmission-based precautions upon a resident's return, which for many facilities means quarantining residents for 14 days to help mitigate spread.

The Florida Assisted Living Association also recommends precautions, and notes it’s important to consider other residents when making these decisions. It says it recommends residents quarantine when returning to the community, noting it’s meant to protect those who choose not to leave or don’t have the ability to.

“I want to reassure the public that providers are not trying to keep residents from their loved ones, they are trying to protect them and the staff. We are all in this together,” stated Veronica Catoe, the chief executive officer for the member-based organization.

AHCA sent out a notification about the CMS holiday guidance, which noted it collaborated with the CDC on its recommendations, and said for facilities to continue following the Florida Department of Health and CDC guidance.

Mary Daniel has sent a message to state officials requesting clarification for families.

“All we want is that an order is enforced then that order needs to be enforced and if it’s not, if you don’t like what it says and that wording needs to be changed and those allowances need to be changed, then change it,” Daniel said.