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Visitor restrictions: Who qualifies as a support person?

A new state law allows support persons to accompany or visit inpatients with a disability.

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When the hospital visitation policy tightened last week, there remained confusion over what constitutes a “support person.” You’ll recall that under the revised policy, designated support persons are among those allowed to visit patients who have a disability.

A new state law, enacted to support people with disabilities, defines a support person as a:

  • Family member.
  • Guardian.
  • Personal care assistant.
  • Other paid or unpaid attendant.

Support people are chosen by a patient with a disability to provide physical or emotional assistance and help the patient communicate with care providers. They may make decisions on the patient’s behalf.

A disability may be a physical, intellectual, behavioral or cognitive impairment; deafness or being hard of hearing or other communication barrier; blindness; autism or dementia. Patients may designate up to three different support people, and at least one is allowed to be with the patient at all times, whether in the Emergency Department or elsewhere in the hospital.

Unless the patient requests otherwise, a support person should be present for any discussions about electing hospice care, signing an advance directive or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

Thank you for supporting these new rules. Your cooperation is helping to make Asante a safer place for patients and our staff.

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