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Florida long-term care reopening task force plans to recommend visitation resume

As phase two starts, Florida families continue waiting for visitations to resume at nursing homes
Posted at 11:34 PM, Aug 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-23 10:19:25-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Visitors may soon be able to see their loved ones inside nursing homes. That is if Governor Ron DeSantis approves a set of recommendations the Florida Task Force on the Safe and Limited Reopening Long-Term Care Facilities plans on sending this week.

It’s certainly not a full-fledged reopening, but the task force is hopeful that by the end of the month, visitors will be able to go inside long-term care facilities to see and care for their loved ones.

“PPE, hand sanitation, following those guidelines, but we need to hold their hands, and we need to give them a hug,” said Mary Daniel, a member of the task force, and the founder of the Caregivers for Compromise Facebook pages.

Mary Daniel represents thousands of families as a member of Florida’s Task Force on the Safe and Limited Reopening of Long-Term Care Facilities.

“It’s time now that we get back some of our own caregiving power,” said Daniel.

Daniel took her ideas to Governor DeSantis after making national headlines for taking a job as a dishwasher in her husband’s long-term care facility so she could see him. Those ideas are now starting to come to fruition as she and the rest of the task force prepare to finalize their reopening recommendations for the Governor.

“I’m absolutely confident he will approve it, and I think he will put it into effect quickly,” said Daniel.

Those recommendations include: visitation by appointment either indoor in a designated room, or outdoor depending on the facility; wearing PPE; and social distancing from all other visitors and staff.

The facility would also have to have no new cases of COVID-19 within the previous 14 days.

The task force also plans to recommend an essential caregiver designation, which would allow one family member or caregiver to enter the facility anytime, regardless of whether the facility has had a COVID-19 case in the previous 14 days, in order to help provide care for their loved ones.

“Families being at the bedside to advocate for the loved ones is the safest option for the residents on a daily basis, it helps to prevent abuse and neglect of residents,” said Brian Lee, a former Florida ombudsman, and the founder of Families for Better Care.

Lee’s organization, Families for Better Care, is an advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness on conditions of our nation’s nursing homes. He is for a reopening of long-term care facilities but says safety is paramount.

“I think the best way to make that happen is to have a robust testing protocol in facilities at the door,” said Lee.

Governor DeSantis has stated in previous meetings with the long-term care task force that rapid testing of visitors is not currently an option. But Mary Daniel says, that’s next on the list.

The task force is meeting Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. to iron out the final details. Then they plan to send their recommendations to Governor DeSantis following that meeting.