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Virtual visitation needed at LTC facilities

Josh Askvig, State Director AARP North Dakota

AARP understands the worry and heartache felt by families and residents of long-term care facilities who haven’t been able to see each other for months. We, too, look forward to the day when these facilities are once again open to visitation.

But we also need to ensure our most vulnerable remain safe. In North Dakota, 55 of the 75 COVID-19 related deaths have been in long-term care facilities.

For months, we have been advocating at both the state and federal level for virtual visitation at every LTC facility. We have repeatedly asked that the state require all LTC facilities to proactively work to connect residents with their loved ones virtually. North Dakota has more than 5,300 residents living in LTC facilities. They want to communicate with their families and families are anxious to know what is happening to their loved ones.

All LTC facilities should be required to offer and facilitate these virtual visits. The state has even been given a federal grant to facilitate virtual visitation, but it is our understanding the state has yet to use those resources to connect families with their loved ones. There is no reason residents and loved ones should be without virtual visitation. In fact, it should be happening in every nursing home and it’s long overdue.

For those with a spouse, sibling, parent, or other loved one in a nursing home, AARP recommends asking the facility to help them connect with their loved ones using video-chat applications like Skype and Zoom. Nursing homes should set up a regular schedule for you to speak with your loved one by phone or video call.

Some nursing homes will be open to visitation before others. We don’t know when all will be safe for in-person visitation. Until then, virtual visitation gives residents and families an alternate avenue to connect.

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