Despite rise in COVID-19 cases, advocates in Kansas say restrictions on nursing home visits too strict

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Advocates from the sunflower state are complaining restrictions on nursing home visits are too strict.

Kansas Advocates for Better Care, which acts on behalf of patients in nursing homes and skilled nursing centers, wants families to be permitted to make in-person visits, despite COVID-19 demands.

“It’s very difficult. We have a very close bond,” Linda Rumsey said, referencing the loving relationship she has with her mother.

Nine months of separation has been stressful for Rumsey. It took that long for her family to reunite with their mother, 95-year-old Karen Blaich, who is a memory care patient. Months of pandemic restrictions would only permit visits on the phone and from a distance.

“We were sad that we couldn’t go see my mom,” Rumsey said on Wednesday.

Rumsey’s family is among those from the metro supporting Kansas Advocates for Better Care’s effort to allow more visits to nursing homes and memory care facilities. The rules have tightened over the past two years to prevent spreading the virus.

“If you have to show your vaccination card to say you won’t expose other people. We definitely have mask mandates in place, even though we can go in. We need to have protocols,” Rumsey said.

Seniors, especially those in skilled nursing facilities, were prime victims for the virus, since their immune systems are weaker.

Margaret Farley, director at Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said she wants state leaders to remember that nursing homes are highly experienced in containing infections, and separation anxiety doesn’t promote healing.

“This is the home for patients and residents. They need to see their family and friends,” Farley said. “We don’t understand why facilities are exercising far too great of restrictions on visitors when that is the thing that can really help the health and happiness and welfare of residents who live there.”

A statement from the Kansas Department of aging and disability received on Thursday seemed open-minded to considering new ideas. It read, in part: “KDADS is always open to facilitate a constructive conversation with stakeholders and advocacy groups to ask the question “what might we do together to better serve these individuals” and continue to work toward optimal outcomes.”

Farley’s group has supporters. One metro nursing home director told FOX4 they’re in agreement that patients and families need time together, but concerns over unvaccinated visitors should factor in.

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