The California Long Term Care Facility Access Workgroup released a report to the Legislature “regarding best policies and practices for long term care facilities during public health emergencies [PHEs], including . . . visitation policies.” The report comes after a CANHR-sponsored bill to guarantee access to essential caregivers during public health emergencies, AB 2546 (2022, Nazarian), was amended into a bill creating a workgroup to study the matter.
The Workgroup’s report makes a series of recommendations that collectively push for much greater access to long term care facility residents during future PHEs, particularly for family, chosen family, and friends. The report states that access to these individuals is “essential . . . including during a state of emergency.” Family and friends “provide frontline care” and support residents in innumerable ways. Thus, the Workgroup recommends that “resident-designated support persons be able to conduct in-person visits with residents during any PHE, subject to the same safety protocols as facility staff.”
The Workgroup report is a clear repudiation of COVID-19 policy that cut residents off completely from their friends and family. Policymakers underestimated, if they estimated at all, the critical vital support that friends and families often provide. Hopefully, the report will be a springboard to legislation in 2024 to protect resident access during future public health emergencies.