Group demands more visitation freedom for vaccinated long-term care residents

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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — As more long-term care residents get the COVID-19 vaccine, one group is concerned about the ongoing limitations to visitation rights.

It’s up to health officials to make the final call on how facilities can operate. At this point, if any resident leaves their facility overnight, even if they were vaccinated, they’d have to quarantine for 14 days. Family members feel that’s unacceptable.

“Why are we vaccinating if we’re not going to see any benefit for the resident?” asked Carrie Leljedal. That’s the question many like Carrie Leljedal are asking as visiting guidelines in nursing homes remain mostly the same. Families have been told they’ll stay that way even after residents are fully vaccinated.

“The isolation that these people are suffering from… it is detrimental and a lot of them are dying, and they’re dying alone,” said Julie Lewis. Lewis’ father will likely be vaccinated soon.
She feels that should come with more freedom, but she’s been told he’d have to quarantine for 14 days if he leaves overnight for a visit aside from a doctor’s appointment.

“For someone with dementia, it’s just really heart-wrenching. They don’t know why; they don’t understand. It’s like dropping a kid off at daycare and never going back for them. Just very sad,” Lewis said, “I just would’ve never ever have realized in my mind, how something like this could’ve ever happened, where we’re not allowed to visit our loved ones who need us.”

It’s frustrating for Lewis because she feels employees at nursing homes are often the ones bringing cases in. “This is not working. This system is not working. Something needs to happen; something different needs to happen.”

Leljedal’s son stays in a facility too. She’s told he could be vaccinated in a few weeks, but he, too, will have to follow the same restrictions. She feels that’s both unnecessary and harmful.

“This should be about quality of life, dignity, respect, and the residents still don’t have that,” said Leljedal. She reached out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They told her that they are still evaluating the impact of the vaccine on the virus’ spread, and that the risk of transmission remains high. That’s why they’re keeping these restrictions.

We reached out to Clark-Lindsay’s Meadowbrook Health Center. That’s in Urbana. If a resident there is gone overnight, they have to quarantine for 14 days. If they’re gone for less time than that, they have to take the state’s risk assessment to determine what they do next.

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