Some care facilities decide to keep visitation restrictions in place despite state leaders lifting rules

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — State leaders have lifted visitation rules for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to visit your loved ones right away.

Some local care facilities have decided to keep their visitation restrictions in place.

For almost a year, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have had to follow strict guidelines due to COVID-19.

“No one can come into the facility except medical personnel,” said the owner of Patriot Hills Assisted Living, Tommy Spencer. “Families can’t come in. All of the residents are having to visit their family through a window.”

A sad reality that has left some older adults feeling alone.

“It’s hard for the family, but it’s really hard on our staff to watch a loved one wanting to reach out and hug and not being able to do that,” added Spencer.

Now, statewide visitation rules are being left up to each individual nursing home or assisted living facility following guidance from their insurance provider.

“We will no longer be restricting any visitation at nursing homes,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey in a press conference last week. “They will only be under the restriction of their governing body. In this instance, it would be CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said this is thanks to efficient vaccine distribution, and other state efforts to protect our most vulnerable: “There has been a lot of isolation, a lot of separation for a lot of the elderly in our state.”

Spencer said that the restrictions at his facility will remain the same.

“One of our jobs is to make sure these people are safe. and we’re going to do that. So we’re not going to allow it right now,” Spencer said.

Patriot Hills Assisted Living just got their second dose of vaccines on Monday.

“Our facility, we’re very blessed that we haven’t had any cases at all,” Spencer explained. “A lot of facilities have, and I think a lot of that has to do with our nurse and a lot of people being so stringent on following the rules.”

They’re not the only facility keeping their visitation restrictions.

Tennessee State Veterans’ Homes Executive Office sent WATE 6 On Your Side the following statement in regards to Ben Atchley Tennessee State Veterans’ Home in Knoxville:

The Tennessee Department of Health has announced there will no longer be state-specific visitation guidance related to long-term care effective February 28, 2021. However, the federal restrictions were not lifted. Tennessee State Veterans’ Homes are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and are required to follow their visitation guidance. Currently, our homes are facilitating visitation as prescribed in the CMS guidelines.

Melanie Cook
Marketing & Public Relations Manager

Visitation rules will be different at each nursing home and assisted living facility. Be sure to call and check before you go.

Many care facilities fall under the Tennessee Health Care Association who sent the following statement:

Tennessee’s long-term care facilities have done an incredible job under extremely difficult circumstances over the past year as residents have been unable to see loved ones because of COVID-related visitation restrictions. The Tennessee Department of Health has announced there will no longer be state-specific visitation guidance related to long-term care effective Feb. 28, 2021. However, Tennessee’s skilled nursing facilities are still required to follow visitation guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and state-licensed long-term care facilities – including assisted living, residential homes for the aged, and any nursing home not certified by CMS – have been encouraged by the state to reference the CMS guidance when developing their facility-specific visitation policies. Because the CMS guidelines are similar to the state’s guidelines and CMS is unlikely to change its guidance anytime soon, the state’s removal of state visitation restrictions will likely have little effect because the CMS guidelines remain in place. As case counts decline and vaccines become widely distributed and are proven effective, we hope the federal government will modify its guidance, as well. But even then, precautions must continue to be taken to keep COVID out of long-term care facilities and protect our state’s most vulnerable population.

Jesse Samples, Executive Director of THCA

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