Florida health administration says residents can leave nursing homes for holidays

Those who have been secluded for months inside senior living facilities are allowed to enjoy their family outside of the facility.

We spoke with someone off camera who said it’s just too risky for her to take her dad out of his nursing home with the spike in coronavirus cases.

But one man told us, if he can, he will take his mother out of her nursing home to spend the holidays surrounded by a small group of close family members safely.

James Scarmozzino says his mom, who lives at American House Fort Myers, is used to celebrating with family by her side, but this year will be different. Scarmozzino’s father died recently, and the celebration will have to be smaller. But he would give anything for his mom to be with him for the holidays.

“It’s the time for a family, so it is definitely important. My mom is over there by herself,” Scarmozzino said. “I was hoping that, if she could come over for the holidays a little bit, it would make a small difference in her life.”

Now, that may be possible. The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in Florida says people in long-term care facilities must be allowed to leave for holiday visits if they want.

Though Scarmozzino plans to take every precaution there is, he knows bringing his mom home comes with a risk.

“I definitely would not want her to go back, and God forbid somebody gets a disease because she was out and then came back in,” Scarmozzino said. “That would be terrible.”

That’s exactly what representatives from AARP fear too.

“The risks are tremendous, not only to the elders who are going home to be with their loved ones, but for all the ones who aren’t,” said Dave Bruns, a spokesperson for the AARP Florida office. “Once that virus infects someone, if they carry it back into that facility, the results could be catastrophic, deadly, dangerous.”

The AHCA said there are no time limits on holiday visits for people who choose to leave long-term care facilities. But families who do choose to bring their loved one home should make sure they follow CDC guidelines for everyone’s safety.

The AHCA also said anyone who leaves their nursing home must wear a mask and will be screened when they return. Scarmozzino said he’s OK with that as long as he can spend the holidays by his mother’s side.

“If they told me, if she comes out she’d have to be quarantined, I think it would be worth it just to get her out of there,” Scarmozzino said. “She hasn’t been out of there since February.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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