COVID-19 visitor policy and patients with dementia

April 22, 2020 | Caregiver Resources

Health care and long-term residential care providers have become experts at adapting to this new COVID-19 environment, and have shown remarkable resiliency in the way they are treating patients, providing care, and protecting those who are most vulnerable from the coronavirus. One of the required protections for patients and residents is a restriction on who is allowed to visit a person in a residential care home, hospital, or other health care facility.  

In order to help reduce exposure and stop the spread of COVID-19, health care providers have restricted most visitors. However, when a person with dementia is in a hospital or long-term care facility, the issue of visitors is even more important. A person with dementia might not understand the environment they are in and rely on a family member to help them feel safe and comfortable. Or, they might not be able to make sound decisions for themselves and need their designated patient advocate to help them make medical decisions. In these cases, a visit with a person with dementia is more than just a social call, it is necessary to support that person’s life and well-being.  

Fortunately, Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order No. 2020-37, in place until May 3rd, allows for exceptions to the no-visitor policy (for any patient) based on the following criteria: 

  • The visitor is required for supporting the patient, including activities of daily living 
  • The visitor has power of attorney or is court-appointed for care for the patient 
  • The patient is in serious or critical condition or hospice care 
  • The visitor is conducting official government business 
  • The patient is age 21 or under and the visitor is a parent, foster parent, or appointed guardian 
  • The visitor has no symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, coughing) or other risk factors (travel to endemic area, exposure to confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days, pregnant, other) and passes a screening upon entry. 

It is important to note that visitation rules change frequently, and that any organization has the right to deny a visitor at any time in order to protect the health and safety of everyone involved. While the Governor has issued the guidance above, it is up to the health care or residential care facility to protect the people under their care. 

If someone you know or care for has dementia and is in a health care or residential care facility, Rethinking Dementia urges you to speak with the staff at that facility about their visitor policy and whether a visit from you or someone else might be allowed under the policy outlined above. It’s important that you understand the rules they have put in place and follow them carefully to protect as many people as possible. It’s also important that the person with dementia receives the care they need, and a discussion about visitors should be included in that care plan.