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New York's new assisted care policy could reunite many families


New York state announced this week it is easing visitation rules at adult care facilities. Families can now visit their loved ones who are in assisted living facilities if there has not been a case of COVID-19 there in at least 14 days, down from the previous requirement of 28 days.

Patti Mulhern is a nurse manager with Loretto, which operates assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in central New York. She said the past few months have been tough. Some residents at long-term care facilities have not been able to see their family members since the pandemic started in March and it's taken a toll.

"It's depressing because you know that the families and the residents are lonely," Mulhern said. "You take the time out of your actual job to spend the quality time with your residents that their families would have been here to do and [you're] trying to support the families through it at a distance - you feel like you’re carrying everybody on your shoulders."

The New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Asssited Living, a statewide association representing more than 425 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, advocated for this change because of its potential to reunite families. The organization said a recent survey found that 77 percent of its providers were unable to open for in-person visitation under the state's former requirement of 28 days. 

"Adult care facilities throughout New York have made incredible strides in eradicating COVID-19 and [this] revised visitation policy recognizes the success of their enormous efforts in battling this virus," said Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of NYSHFA/NYSCAL, in a press release. "While NYSCAL providers and their residents have become skilled at using various digital communication platforms to connect with loved ones, digital interaction doesn’t compare to the joy of in-person interaction.”

Hanse is now calling on the state to enact the same policy for skilled nursing facilities.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.