Lawmakers join rally for increased nursing home visitations

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Oneida County state lawmakers joined a rally organized by a Utica resident in Albany to urge action for nursing home residents isolated from families for seven months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Take Back Our Nursing Homes Rally at the state Capitol sought to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo change rules regarding pandemic nursing home visitation or for the Legislature to act. Revised rules allow nursing homes to allow visitors if the facility has not had COVID-19 cases for 14 days, half the previous length of time, but visitation is to be outside, which will limit it, activists said. They also sought measures to allow designated care givers to make sure care is adequate.

The rally, organized by Karla Abraham-Conley of Utica, focused on allowing designated friend or relative caregivers to visit nursing homes or adult care facilities to ensure a particular residents’ needs are met. They would have to follow the same guidelines as staff members, such as weekly COVID-19 testing, symptom monitoring and using personal protective equipment. Among lawmakers joining were state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47, Rome, and Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy.

“For the past seven months, our nursing home residents have been isolated without the ability to see their family and loved ones,” Buttenschon said. “This length of separation is simply unacceptable. I’ll always work to ensure our more vulnerable residents are not sidelined in times of great hardship, and that starts today with fighting to bring compassionate care visitors back into nursing homes.”

Griffo is seeking legislation allowing family members of residents to serve as essential caregivers, as has been done in New Jersey, and which would allow a patient or their family to have an electronic monitoring device such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home installed in his or her room at the expense of the individual or their family.

Attendees in Albany Wednesday also backed legislation introduced by Sen. Rachel May, D-53, Syracuse that would have the state Health Department develop regulations and guidelines for personal-care and short-term compassionate care visitors.

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