Proposed COVID-19 waiver causes concern for families at local senior living facility

Brad Thompson's father thrives on being social. At 90-years-old, he lives at Westminster Village. During the times of COVID-19, in-person visits are few and far between. A proposed waiver at the facility caused some concern.

Posted: Sep 18, 2020 6:30 PM
Updated: Sep 21, 2020 12:54 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Brad Thompson's father thrives on being social. At 90-years-old, he lives at Westminster Village. During the times of COVID-19, in-person visits are few and far between.

"I think his doctor would say that he's in a mental decline because of the isolation," said Thompson.

Isolation is just one of the many effects of the pandemic, especially among seniors. That's why facilities, like Westminster, are looking into guidelines and policies that best fit their communities.

That's what led to an e-mail, Thompson received, in August. Starting August 12th, residents and visitors would be required to sign a COVID-19 Risk Waiver and Release of Claims form.

By signing it, you understand the protocols and risks of COVID-19 within the facility. However, you forfeit the right to sue for claims of negligence and damages related to the virus.

“It was really severe,” said Thompson, “It basically said that Westminster could do whatever Westminster wanted to do.”
Thompson says he feels the waiver lacks accountability for the facility and ultimately discourages visitation.

“It’s no different than saying that they want to charge us money to visit our loved ones,” he said, “They’re saying you need to give us, the nursing home, your legal rights. That’s a price of admission and that’s what’s unacceptable.”

The proposed waiver actually never went into effect. In a statement, from Westminster, Executive Director Dan Smith cited concerns from residents and families.

His full statement reads:

“Westminster Village’s priority is the health and safety of our residents, families, and team members. We continue to be amazed at the resilience and commitment of our residents, families, and team members who every day try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing hands, and limiting in-person contact – even with people they love.

While many cities and states have already started their re-opening plans, we closely watch the incident and transmission rates so we can safely re-open our community. Like other businesses that re-open, we are faced with the unknown. The active screening of every team member and essential caregiver, and the wellness checks with residents are two of our primary methods to keep the community safe, however, we must remain vigilant to protect our community.

As the state began to re-open, we had residents interested in beginning to increase social activity outside and inside of the community. To meet that desire, we presented an immunity waiver that mirrors the language of the current laws to protect both the financial well-being of the community and our residents. As we introduced the use of waivers with residents and families, we began to hear and understand their concerns. As we have throughout our history, we have respected the concerns raised on important issues, and will continue to work with residents and families to reach a solution that balances the social aspects of our community with the need to protect the health and safety of our residents, guests and team members.

We are committed to serving and enriching the lives of seniors.”

While the waiver is off the table for now, Thompson believes the possibilities of rolling out another version are not.

As for the time being, he considers the pause a lesson learned in a temporary truce.

“More people need to understand that they don’t just have to sign everything that’s put in front of them and give away their rights,” said Thompson.

As far as COVID-19 cases within Westminster’s facility, Smith says, right now, they have three cases (two residents and one team member). The team member is self-quarantining at home. The two residents are in a dedicated unit for safe treatment.

In August, Smith reported no known cases since the pandemic’s start.

Westminster says it’s continuing to follow guidelines from the CDC, the state department of health and the Vigo County Health Department.

As for visitation, indoor visits are still on hold for now. In the meantime, residents can still visit with loved ones virtually and for a limited time outdoors, weather permitting.

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