MONTICELLO, NY — “We’re using an empty unit on the first floor, six rooms, and having visitation in the rooms,” Burt Kohn, administrator for the Care Center at Sunset Lake, said at the May 13 health and family services meeting. If the weather is nice, you can see your loved one outside on the patio. “This way, we can go and sanitize the rooms between each visit.”
Staff is needed to monitor the visits, and that, he said, is the biggest obstacle. There aren’t enough staff and oversight is needed. “We can’t have people just walking in the doors; it’s not practical, it’s not safe for the residents.”
At the moment, he told legislator Nadia Rajsz later, they were having half-hour visits per person, for four hours a day, by appointment.
The plan is to increase the frequency of visits allowed and adding two nights a week plus weekends. “If this works out now, we’ll change it further,” Kohn said. “I understand, we all want visitation, it’s good for the residents, it’s good for their mental health and their physical well-being. Unfortunately, we have to balance between what we want to do and what is safe. Sometimes decisions have to be made and they’re not always popular.”
Chairman Rob Doherty asked if fully vaccinated residents and visitors would make a difference. Kohn replied that they were not required to ask about vaccine status. “We’re not allowed to base visitation on vaccination.”
“The biggest issue is staffing,” he told legislator Mike Brooks. “Unless I can get more staff or people that can sit there, we have a problem.”
However, there’s the Essential Caregivers’ Act, signed into law by Govenor Andrew Cuomo on March 29, which took effect 45 days after that. Credit to frequent commenter Cat Scott, whose mother is a resident at the care center, who brought it up.
The act allows a limited number of essential caregivers per family to enter nursing homes and care for loved ones, seeing if their “mental, physical or emotional wellbeing required attention,” she said. They are exempt from the limits placed on everyone else, she said. Scott added that Kohn was being uncooperative and that she didn’t know how the care center would implement the law.
“So how you interpret this,” Rajsz said, “is that you have the right as a caregiver to get in and see your mother.”
“To check on her wellbeing, to support her mentally, emotionally and physically,” Scott said.