The last 10 months have been difficult for people living in long-term care facilities, unable to see loved ones in person for much of that time.
Now, the state legislature is considering a bill that would re-connect them.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, long-term care facilities have had to close their doors to the public limiting visitation and separating loved ones.
“We’ve had to make some really difficult decisions because we have such guidelines we have to follow and they’re our licensing body. So sometimes things are beyond our control. And we’re really just asking to be able to have some help to make decisions that will allow a little bit more compassion with our residents,” explained Tessa Johnson, the Executive Director of Country House in Dickinson.
That’s why the Senate Human Services Committee is considering Senate Bill 2145.
A bill that would allow a designated caregiver to be chosen and allowed to visit when a state of emergency or disaster is declared.
“They were not being allowed to see their loved ones. They were really struggling. How do we make sure that we allow for visitation yet balance that with the safety of residents in long term care,” explained Republican Senator Kristin Roers, from District 27.
“During this pandemic, I’ve had lots of family members who have asked us, ‘Is there anything we can do to help? Can we come in and help?’ Especially when we had staff that were out, that were COVID positive, that were out on COVID quarantine,” explained Johnson.
The purpose of the bill is to provide in-person physical, spiritual or emotional support to residents while following safety protocols like testing or wearing protective gear.
“So I might have to get tested. I might have to wear PPE. Whatever those protocols are to make sure that we’re keeping that safety piece in place, but I can still come in and give that emotional, that spiritual and that physical care to my loved one,” said Roers.
“The mental health, the stress and trauma that residents have been through in the last 10 months we need to really address that,” said Shelly Peterson, the President for North Dakota Long Term Care Association.
One daughter who testified to the Senate Human Services Committee says not being able to have in-person interaction with her mother just doesn’t sit well with her.
“She was having issues and wanted to discuss things to me in private that she couldn’t because there were other people around,” shared Roza Larson, whose mother lives in long-term care facility.
This bill has an emergency clause, meaning it would go into effect immediately with a signature from the governor.
The bill is still being considered by the Senate Human Services Committee. From there, it will go to the Senate floor for a vote.