In an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable communities, the Community Care Licensing Division of the State Department of Social Services (CCLD) is issuing new guidance on visitation for elders residing in assisted living facilities in California. While these guidelines will pose many challenges for residents and their families during this health crisis, the new rules should not discourage the kind of close relationships that California seniors in these facilities depend on. California recognizes that visitation with family and friends is critical to the wellbeing of the nearly two hundred thousand people in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) in the state. These rights are reflected in 22 California Code of Regulations Section 87468.1, which provides, among other things, that RCFE residents have the rights:
- To leave or depart the facility at any time and to not be locked into any room, building, or on facility premises by day or night. This does not prohibit a licensee from establishing house rules, such as locking doors at night to protect residents, or barring windows against intruders, with permission from the Department.
- To be informed of the licensee’s policy concerning visits and other communications with residents
- To have their visitors, including ombudspersons and advocacy representatives, permitted to visit privately during reasonable hours and without prior notice, provided that the rights of other residents are not infringed upon.
More information about this resource can be found at https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/CCLD/PINs/PIN_20-05-CCLD_CoronavirusRelatedQuestions.pdf.
CANHR encourages residents and their families to take advantage of resident councils to express their views and concerns where that is possible: https://www.canhr.org/factsheets/rcfe_fs/PDFs/FS_RCFE_Resident_Councils.pdf.However, because some council meetings may be limited during the crisis as an infection control measure, residents and their families should consider exchanging information and support the “old fashioned” way—by reaching out to one another using email, text, and “telephone trees”. Until this health crisis slows, this kind of community building will be more important than ever. Finally, the coronavirus crisis in no way restricts the access of residents and their families to the ombudsman program. The name and contact information of the facility ombudsman should be displayed in public areas in the facility, but the ombudsman can also be located at the state website: https://www.aging.ca.gov/Find_Services_in_My_County/.