This week, the Ontario Government made two significant policy changes affecting Long Term Care residents and their families.
Effective immediately, residents can spend time away from their long-term care homes for day trips or overnight absences. For 'short-stay' absences — those that do not include an overnight stay — homes must provide residents with a medical mask to be worn at all times when outside of the home, if tolerated, and remind them of the importance of public health measures, including physical distancing.
When they return, residents must be actively screened but are not required to be tested or to self-isolate. Residents may also leave for 'temporary' absences of one or more nights. For the protection of their neighbours, residents who leave on a temporary absence will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to the home. If a home makes the decision to deny a temporary absence request, they must communicate their rationale in writing.
The Ontario Government also updated the visitor policy for long-term care homes this week to help operators implement consistent visiting practices for caregivers across the province. The updated policy provides clarity that caregivers are allowed to visit homes at any time, including during an outbreak, subject to direction from the local public health unit. This will support better implementation across homes.
Each resident and/or their substitute decision maker may designate a maximum of two caregivers who can visit, without time limits. If a home is not in outbreak, and the resident is not self-isolating or symptomatic, caregivers can visit together. If a home is in outbreak, or the resident is self-isolating or symptomatic, they must visit one at a time to limit risk of transmission and follow direction from the local public health unit.
By updating this policy, the government will continue to make every effort to support the safety and emotional well being of residents and the staff who care for them.