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May pushes for personal care visitors in nursing homes

Tom Fazzio
Syracuse University
State Sen. Rachel May.

Syracuse-area state Sen. Rachel May is disturbed by the uptick of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes as part of the current coronavirus surge in central New York and New York state. As head of the Senate Aging Committee, she is pushing an idea that might be able to help understaffed facilities.

May admits it’s difficult to keep nursing home residents safe.

"Especially when the staff is underpaid, they’re working a second job or they don’t have sufficient PPE,” May said. “There are still a lot of those problems.”

But help could be on the way for these staffs in the form of a personal care visitor. May said it’s a system that’s in place in New Jersey and Connecticut, and requires a designated visitor to be treated like an employee, when it comes to COVID protocol. And she said these are people who may have been helping loved ones before the pandemic.

"These personal visitors have been providing essential care to persons in nursing homes,” May said. “They help them dress, and help feed them, and keep an eye out and see if there is a decline or problem happening that staff don’t have time to pick up on.”

She also said they can reduce the isolation of residents that in the pandemic has led to more cognitive decline and illness among nursing home residents. She said it’s an idea that has bipartisan support.

"It’s something most people agree on,” May said. “It’s really important but Department of Health is shy about letting people in nursing homes because of the outcomes, especially last spring. I understand that, but I think we have to push them to do this.”