Bill expanding long-term care visitation moves to House

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Indiana lawmakers moved forward Thursday with a proposal to change visitation restrictions at the state’s health and residential care sites amid concerns about residents’ declining interactions with loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Bill 202 approved without opposition by the Indiana Senate would require health facilities to allow at least one caretaker to visit a resident during compassionate care situations. Those include if the resident is dying, grieving a recent death, experiencing emotional distress or needing encouragement to eat or drink.

Under the bill, long-term care facilities would also be required to participate in the state health department’s Essential Family Caregivers Program during a declared emergency, a public health emergency, or similar crisis.

That program further designates at least two caregivers who can enter facilities and provide residents with support like meal setup, grooming and general companionship, even during periods of restricted visitation. While some facilities in Indiana currently participate in the program, not all do.

Bill author Republican Sen. Linda Rogers said the plan is critical to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of those in long-term care.

“I’ve heard from many across the state about how lack of visitation shortened their loved ones’ lives,” Rogers said. “If you allow (medical staff) to go from facility to facility, what difference is it for a family member … who uses the same PPE … to visit their loved one?”

The measure now heads to the House.

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