Nursing home window visits do not violate Gov. Evers' safer at home order

NOW: Nursing home window visits do not violate Gov. Evers’ safer at home order

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- When nursing homes across the country and here in Wisconsin started banning visitors, people got creative and began visiting loved ones outside their room windows.

Monday, April 12 the State of Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care issued a memo recommending banning window visits at nursing homes and assisted living communities due to recognized spread in long-term care settings and the Safer at Home order.

This outraged many, several of whom took to social media, including former State Senator Leah Vukmir.

"I’m a nurse and I understand infection control, and I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out how it is that seeing my mother through 3-4 inches of glass, with no opening, no doorway or entrance nearby in a very secluded area, is going to cause any harm to her, the other residents, and the staff,” Vukmir said.

Her mother is 92 years old, is non-communicative and has dementia, and so Vukmir said video calls do not work well. She visited her mother through the window at her nursing home on Easter Sunday.

“She reached her hands up towards the window, she had facial expressions, and she had started to mouth like she was trying to talk to me,” Vukmir said. “It was incredibly moving.”

While many were upset that they were no longer going to be able to see their loved ones in person, some understood -- like a Waterford woman whose grandmother died from coronavirus in a nursing home.

"It’s up to us to protect our families and we’re doing this because we love them,” she said. “I get that they want to be near them to physically see that they are OK but I think it’s safer if we were to Skype.”

Tuesday, a spokesperson for Governor Tony Evers said window visits are allowed and do not violate the safer at home order. Melissa Baldauff said the guidelines from the Board was not guidance from the governor:

“This is an independent board and their advice does not reflect the governor's personal position on this issue. We have asked the board to reissue guidance that preserves the ability of Wisconsinites to have these kinds of visits with their loved ones. This is also counter to the provisions of the Safer at Home order. The Board does not have the authority to issue orders inconsistent with Safer at Home. We will continue to work closely with the board to ensure that their guidance is protecting this vulnerable population and is consistent with Safer at Home.”

Tuesday, the board reissued their memo and removed the portion on window visits.

They released this statement:

“Our Memo providing recommendations regarding “window visits” in Long Term Care communities was an attempt to respond to numerous accounts we have received of individuals visiting long-term care residents outside of the windows, yet having contact such as kissing through a screen, hugging through an open window and not maintaining social distancing. This was also in attempt to respond to concerns for residents with dementia who are confused when visitors they do not know may be looking inside their windows or visiting at nighttime. We did not intend to recommend prohibiting allowed essential activities such as waiving to a resident through a closed window or providing care essential to someone’s health and safety. We apologize for any confusion.”

Read the latest memo just below: 

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