All IU Health locations are allowing patients free of COVID-19 to have one visitor per day as of Jan. 19. This excludes end-of-life and pediatric patients who are still allowed to have more than one.
The decision was made based on an evaluation of Indiana’s COVID-19 data, Director of Experience Design Lisa Johnson said. As COVID-19 infections went down in January, Johnson said IU Health could safely allow limited visitors.
According to IU Health’s website, visitors must wear masks at all times and social distance. Visitors must also be over the age of 18. The guidelines encourage visitors not to leave a patient’s room unless going to the cafeteria or restroom.
Visitors are not required to take a COVID-19 test or be vaccinated to enter, Johnson said. Screeners are stationed at entrances to ask if people entering have tested positive for or shown symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, she said. If a visitor has, they must postpone their visit until they’ve tested negative. Additionally, if a visitor leaves the hospital during a visit, such as to get food from a restaurant, they may not return until the next day to prevent potential spread of COVID-19.
Johnson said the previous no-visitor rule was taxing both physically and mentally for patients and families.
“The families are the best, so having them at the bedside to help us through that and be that support for that patient is really essential,” Johnson said. “It was really difficult any time that we had to pull back from that."
There are always risks, Jaleigh Asbell said, operation manager at 3 South Medical Surgical Acuity Adaptable, but she believes having a familiar face in the room is necessary.
“Just knowing that your family’s there to visit you, comfort you, try to cheer you on along the way, I think that outweighs any risks that could come,” Asbell said.
When one of Asbell’s patients was dying of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, she set up a video call with around 10 of his family members, including his grandkids.
The patient couldn’t speak, but held his heart to show his family he loved them through the screen. Everyone cried, Asbell said. It was the first time she truly felt the emotion of families unable to be by the bedside at crucial times.
IU Health isn’t sure when it will allow more visitors for everyone, Johnson said. She said IU Health wants to involve customers in the conversation to evaluate their needs and concerns, and COVID-19 infections, vaccine rates and PPE supply will inform future decisions.
She said she’s glad IU Health can provide patients and families at least some connection.
“It’s been so challenging and heartbreaking to see these families that are heartbroken and hurting and distraught,” Johnson said. “We are so happy that we can finally open our doors back up, even if it’s just a little bit right now.”