DES MOINES, Iowa (June 4, 2021) — Iowans are rolling up their sleeves and getting vaccinated including the residents of long-term care facilities across the state. The result is a move to returning to normal for those who call those facilities home. But that is not always the case.

Many long-term care residents are still isolated and having difficulty visiting family members during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-COVID, it was a violation of a residents' right for a nursing facility to interfere with resident visitation. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic nursing, residential-care facilities and assisted-living programs have excluded visitors from facilities.

"For most long-term care residents, it feels like it has been an eternity since they have been able to visit with family," says Cynthia Pederson, State Long-Term Care Ombudsman in the Department on Aging. "In March, guidance to nursing facilities was revised. Based on the update, visitation should now be the rule and not the exception. Our office is still receiving reports that some long-term care-facilities are still not getting it."

Pederson sites examples:

  • Family members driving several hours for a 15-30-minute visit.  
  • Visits that are not private because staff is present.
  • Residents leaving facilities against medical advice because ongoing isolation. 

Pederson encourages residents and their families to know their rights when it comes to resident visitation and contact her office when they have questions or need assistance.

The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman continues to advocate for residents to have private, in-person visits with their loved ones and have also been educating facility staff on the most recent guidance from Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Nursing facilities must accommodate virtual visitations for residents, must allow window visits and, depending on COVID-19 positivity rates in the community, in-person visitations.

For more information, contact the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 866-236-1430 or

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