BUFFALO, NY (WIVB)– Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the New York State Department of health will be putting out new guidance which could make it easier for people to visit loved ones in a nursing home.
“The Department of Health is gonna put out guidance, but they recommend reopening visitation for nursing homes. This is going to be a very big deal for the nursing home residents and families,” said Cuomo. “Department of Health is going to recommend that visitors take a rapid test before entry and the Department of health will provide those tests to nursing homes cost free.”
The Governor gave no further indication how long it would take before going into effect. It cannot come soon enough for one Buffalo family.
“It took a toll on our whole family,” said Shannon Hastings, whose mother Kitty Hastings, suffers from Alzheimers and has been in the Terrace View Long Term Facility four more than two years.
For the past 11 months, there was only one week they were able to visit her. “The last time I saw my mother, I had to stay 30 feet away from here and if I touched her, my visit was done.”
Her father, Bud Hastings wasn’t able to see his wife for the first seven months of the pandemic and when he finally did get to visit his wife in October, that visit lasted 30 minutes and Bud died a week later. His wife is still in the nursing home.
“He was broken hearted,” said Shannon Hastings. “He was devastated. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through not being able to see her loved ones.”
“It is mentally exhausting because you don’t know,” said Sheila Hastings, the other daughter of Bud and Kitty. “Everyday you think, Am I ever gonna see her again.”
The way it stands now, a nursing home can’t even open up the possibility of visitors unless that facility hasn’t had one positive Covid case in 14 days. But most times, either a resident or a staff member tests positive and starts that clock over again.
That needs to change according to Steve Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, representing over 400 long term care facilities statewide. “That ‘One size fits all’ approach is really detrimental to the health and well being of our staff, our residents and their loved ones because nursing homes have PPE, nursing homes have testing, and strict requirements for people entering the nursing homes.”
There is no timeline or specific details yet on when the state will provide rapid testing to the nursing homes, to make visitation more possible.
George Richert is an award-winning reporter who first joined the News 4 team in 1998, later returning in 2018. See more of his work here.