Murphy: End-of-life visits should be allowed — even if there has been outbreak at facility

Compassionate care and end-of-life visitation by appointment should be permitted even when indoor visitation is otherwise restricted because of the status of your facility, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday during his COVID-19 briefing.

“We fully recognize the work that our long-term care facilities are doing to mitigate the further spread of this virus,” he said. “Many of these facilities have experienced enormous emotional strains and losses of life. We get that you want to be, and need to be, cautious.

“However, all long-term care facilities must take visitation allowances as seriously as they are taking virus control.

“No one should be prevented from visiting a loved one without a reasonable cause for health and safety. And no facility should place all residents on lockdown in their rooms without taking a full accounting for individual resident needs, staff and PPE capacity, and building characteristics.”

Murphy said he was reiterating what Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said earlier in the week because he felt it was so important.

“I want all long-term care administrators, residents and loved ones to hear this clearly,” he said.

Murphy said essential caregivers should be permitted visitation if a facility goes 14 days without a positive case, and compassionate care visits are allowed even when there is a known case in a facility.

“And, importantly, compassionate care visits are not end-of-life visits,” he said. “They are for any resident who may not be coping well or whose status or health is declining. We have enormous concern regarding the emotional distress caused by isolation — and its broader impacts on the overall health and quality of life of residents in our long-term care facilities.

“Although compassionate visits are not meant to be routine, they may need to take place more than once.”

Murphy told long-term care facility operators that Long-Term Care Ombudsman Laurie Brewer and her staff — both full-time and volunteers — must be permitted to visit facilities regardless of whether there is an active outbreak, to monitor the health and safety of residents, investigate complaints of abuse and neglect, and ensure that resident rights are being respected.

“That’s why they are there,” he said.