Some families dissatisfied with DHEC rules on nursing home visits

Some families dissatisfied with DHEC rules on nursing home visits

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tuesday, Sept. 8, marked one week since Governor Henry McMaster and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced new guidelines for state nursing homes.

The announcement paved the way for facilities to create outdoor visits for families and residents if they chose.

DHEC created a series of benchmarks and requirements each facility would need to meet before re-opening.

Some Midlands families expressed concern that the guidelines don’t go far enough for the emotional and psychological welfare of the residents.

George Womble is the husband of a long-term care resident in the Midlands.

WIS is keeping the name of the facility private to protect his wife’s privacy.

He said his wife is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the guidelines will create confusion, not comfort.

“I’m going to want to take her to walk for a few minutes. I can’t do that. The guidelines, I have to be distant six feet from her. I can’t touch her. She is going to wonder what’s going on? Does my husband not love me anymore?” he said.

He said he is hoping for guidelines that establish rapid testing of visitors, allow visitors to come inside, and allow for extended visits.

He said his wife’s facility has not yet communicated to him about its plans (if any) to open to visitors.

Womble’s concern is echoed by Stella Donelan.

Her mother is being treated for Dementia at the Carroll Campbell Place (part of the Lexington Medical Center network) in Lexington.

Donelan said the staff takes good care of her mother, but she would like to be allowed expanded indoor visits to provide more help.

“I know down in my heart that there are days when she feels like we’ve deserted her. When I get that feeling it breaks my heart because I love my mother, and I’m afraid my mother is going to die before we can get in and have a visit with her,” she said.

Donelan said the facility has not yet communicated its plans about re-opening.

The medical network sent the following statement:

“Lexington Medical Center Extended Care is following all guidelines and rules about nursing home visitation. Following all testing protocols, the facility has had a positive COVID case this week. According to the state guidelines, skilled nursing facilities must have 14 days without a case in order for visitation to be permitted.”

The DHEC guidelines for outdoor visits state in its final line that “Guidelines and criteria for future limited indoor visitation will be forthcoming.”

Neither the Governor’s office nor DHEC have yet responded to WIS about when that could be.

As of Sept. 8, DHEC is reporting 1,157 resident deaths and 20 staff deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

DHEC released the following statement regarding its guidelines:

"Allowing a ‘caregiver’ who assists with the care of the person has not been implemented because of concerns for those persons bringing COVID-19 infection into the facilities and their lack of formal training and experience in infection prevention and control. While the staff also enter these facilities from the community, they are to be tested on a regular basis, ranging from twice a week to once a month depending on the disease activity in the county. Additionally, the staff in these facilities are trained in infection prevention and control, including proper use of PPE. Lastly, allowing ‘caregivers’ in to assist in the facility would require additional PPE, and certain pieces of PPE are still in short supply.

Dr. Duwve mentioned in last week’s press conference that DHEC is working to provide the criteria for limited indoor visitation around the first of October, however, please note this doesn’t mean these guidelines will necessarily go into affect then."

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