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Nursing home visits resume in Louisiana

“It’s something that is quite a challenge and that family engagement can make such a tremendous difference in their daily lives."

NEW ORLEANS — At Poydras Home on Magazine Street in New Orleans, the news of in-person visits is creating a lot of excitement.

“The phones were ringing, emails were flooding in,” said CEO Erin Kolb.

At nursing homes across the state, residents who call them home have not been able to visit in-person with family for months because of the pandemic. Kolb says virtual visits have filled in the gaps at Poydras Home, but scaled back in-person visits started Monday.

“We’re having only one family at a time visiting and that would be one family visiting one resident,” Kolb said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently released new guidelines surrounding visits, which Louisiana adopted. Before nursing homes can allow visits, they must first meet criteria that considers parish positivity rates and community spread within the facility. That determines whether indoor or outdoor visits are allowed.  You can see those guidelines here.

“I think our residents and families have been extremely patient throughout this situation,” Kolb said.

At Poydras Home, both are allowed. Visitations come with safety measures, like screenings, scheduled visits and a designated meeting space.

“We felt confident that we had prepared enough to start again with just a handful, a small handful of people and try to work out any kinks we might have,” Kolb said.

Of the more than 5,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in Louisiana, about 2,200 of them are from nursing homes. That has Gov. Joh Bel Edwards urging caution as visits resume.

“Because of the congregate setting, it allows for easy spread of the virus and because of the venerable nature of the residents by virtue of their age and the comorbidity health conditions, it makes them especially vulnerable to the disease itself,” Edwards said.

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Kolb says weekly testing of residents and staff is now part of the process and depending on results visits could stop at any time. In the meantime, Kolb says getting back to visits is a big boost for residents’ mental health.  

“It’s something that is quite a challenge and that family engagement can make such a tremendous difference in their daily lives,” Kolb said.

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