Visits resume at senior homes

Carefree, BWCC to resume indoor visits after state ends ban

by Tom Coombe
Indoor visits at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Minnesota are now allowed, after action this week by the Minnesota Department of Health.
New guidelines issued Monday will permit visits at most senior homes, as long as those facilities have gone two weeks without a new COVID-19 case and if the infection rate within the county is no more than 10 percent.
The move clears the way for visits at Ely’s facilities, and both Carefree Living Ely and the Boundary Waters Care Center are moving forward.
Michelle Kosnitch, who directs the three-building Carefree complex in Ely, said visits could begin as soon as Oct. 19.
“There will be certain days, with certain hours for visits and you have to make an appointment,” said Kosnitch.
At the nursing home, visits were set to resume late this week.
“Based on our current COVID-19 status and the county positivity rate, Boundary Waters Care Center will be able to accommodate indoor visits with our residents starting later this week once we confirm test results for all residents and staff are negative,” said BWCC executive director Adam Masloski.
In-person visits at senior facilities have been forbidden for several months, since the onset of a pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 Minnesotans - nearly three-quarters of whom lived in nursing home or other congregate care settings.
The new state guidance comes in response to new federal policy and amid pressure to ease the restrictions.
Advocates for senior home residents and their families contend the extended lockdown has had far-reaching negative effects, saying many residents have suffered both physically and mentally without regular visits with loved ones.
At Carefree, visitation has been limited to outdoor visits or outside of windows.
Kosnitch said the new regulations will allow for visits to be moved inside, in a designated room.
“There will be a specific apartment in each building set aside,” she said.
Visitors will be required to wear masks and stay socially distant, and the room will be cleaned after each visit.
BWCC will follow similar guidelines.
“Boundary Waters Care Center is dedicated to the health and safety of our residents and staff. We are committed to offering visitation that supports each resident’s physical, mental, psychosocial well-being, and quality of life,” said Masloski. “Visitation may be conducted through different means based on the community’s physical plant and residents’ needs, such as in resident rooms, dedicated visitation spaces, outdoors, and for circumstances beyond compassionate care situations.”
The state recommends that long-term care facilities limit how many visitors a resident can have at one time, as well as the duration of indoor visits.
Carefree was in the process of notifying residents and family members about the availability and procedures for indoor visits, while family members of BWCC residents are asked to call the facility to schedule a visit.
The allowance for indoor visits comes amid data showing that COVID-19 cases in the Ely area have slowed after a spike in early-September, that in part was attributed to cases and several deaths at Carefree.