Joint Gold-Planetree statement on preserving family presence during pandemics

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation and Planetree International participated in a “Pop-Up” Coalition of over 60 organizations to Preserve Family Presence in Challenging Times. The international group represented patient and long-term care advocates, quality and safety professionals, and global healthcare policy makers.

The widespread restrictions on the presence of loved ones and care partners in care settings across the continuum during the pandemic have resulted in serious unintended consequences for people at end-of-life, childbearing women, children and those with cognitive impairments. The coalition developed a comprehensive set of Guidelines for minimizing unintended consequences of restrictive family presence policies during a pandemic.

Healthcare teams are working tirelessly to provide optimal care for patients, with the added stress of attempting to find a balance between maintaining safety by limiting exposure to the COVID-19 virus and supporting the emotional and psychological needs of their patients. It is time now to reassess family presence restrictions as we better understand how to contain spread of the virus, and availability of protective gear and testing capabilities expands.

Planetree International and the Gold Foundation support the essential engagement of patients and their families in decisions about their own care as a foundation of a high quality, person-centered healthcare system. We believe that it is imperative that we engage patients and families in the risk-benefit assessment and decisions around family presence, especially in the situations noted above. The safety and rights of all groups involved must be taken into consideration in an ethically sound manner. When one group makes determinations without including the patients and families who will be impacted most, it undermines person-centered care principles.

Safe family presence can be practiced with a well-planned approach during the COVID-19 outbreak. Establishing clear, safe and humane approaches now will help us as we face future challenges. To assist care facilities to establish effective and compassionate policies, an international, multi-stakeholder coalition including patient, family and elder advocates has developed a set of Guidelines for Preserving Family Presence. Use this link to access a full set of the visitation guidelines:

8 Guidelines to Preserve Family Presence in Pandemics and Other Challenging Times

  1. Assess the need for restrictions to family presence based on current factual evidence. Continually reassess and adjust policies as conditions evolve.
  2. Minimize risk of physical presence by following appropriate infection control guidelines issued by the WHO and local and regional health authorities.
  3. Communicate what to expect proactively and with compassion so families do not appear at a facility unaware of restrictions that have been put into place.
  4. Establish and clearly state compassionate exceptions to family presence restrictions, for example in end-of-life situations.
  5. Support meaningful connections, using virtual or other means, to minimize isolation in cases where family is unable to be physically present.
  6. Inform and educate in cases where family can be with their loved one physically, adopting a shared decision-making approach to communicate the risks and benefits.
  7. Enlist family as partners for quality and safety, engaging them as members of the care team who share in the responsibility for abiding by established safety protocols.
  8. Enhance discharge education and post-discharge follow-up to support successful transitions of care, especially when family have not been present during a hospitalization.

About Planetree International
Started by a patient in 1978, Planetree International is a not-for-profit organization that partners with healthcare organizations across the globe to create cultures of person-centered care. The Planetree approach emphasizes the quality of human interactions and caring communication, the importance of connecting personnel to the deeper purpose of their work, and practical strategies for engaging patients, families and communities as true partners in care. As a person-centered care advocacy organization, Planetree International promotes respect, inclusion and compassion toward all who interact with healthcare systems. Our core philosophy of kindness, caring and respect seeks to help realize and sustain patient rights around the world. As part of this mission, Planetree has been developing and compiling resources to support organizations in maintaining person-centered care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources are available at

About The Arnold P. Gold Foundation
Founded in 1988, The Arnold P. Gold Foundation infuses the human connection in healthcare. The nonprofit organization engages schools, health systems, companies, and individual clinicians in the joy and meaning of humanistic healthcare, so that they have the strength and knowledge to ensure patients and families are partners in collaborative, compassionate, and scientifically excellent care. The Gold Foundation’s programs include the White Coat Ceremony, an iconic ritual that emphasizes compassionate care at the start of training, and the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which has more than 160 chapters at medical schools and more than 35,000 members. The Gold Foundation’s key supporters include institutions that value humanism in healthcare, including hospital and medical school members of the Gold Partners Council and leading healthcare companies that belong to the Gold Corporate Council. The Gold Foundation also supports research into humanism in healthcare, offers tools like Tell Me More® to strengthen human connection, and awards numerous prestigious honors to celebrate and reinforce role models of humanism. Learn more and access our COVID-19 resources.