CMS Fall 2021 Nursing Home Visitation Updates

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on November 16, 2021 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on February 24, 2022

CMS Updated Nursing Home VisitationThroughout the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), nursing homes have been greatly impacted. Long-term care facilities have suffered repeated outbreaks and significantly higher morbidity and mortality rates.

To help mitigate the risks of infection to nursing home residents and essential staff, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has remained proactive in providing visitation updates since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

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Recap of CMS Visitation Guidelines Since Pandemic

The initial visitation guidelines imposed were considerably and, necessarily, restrictive in an attempt to contain the infection and reduce the risk of its continued spread.

March 2020

When CMS imposed visitation bans in March 2020, not even family members or non-essential facility staff were permitted. There were still some allowances made for residents dealing with extenuating end-of-life circumstances. For these visits, family members had to undergo screening for COVID symptoms and wear personal protective equipment (PPE). They also were limited to a designated room for the duration of the visit.

The visitation ban was upsetting to family members but took a significant impact on the mental health of residents who were now fully isolated from loved ones. Many struggled with depression, anxiety and emotional distress. Those with cognitive impairment issues or other underlying mental health disorders had difficulty understanding why they could not see their family members. The despair suffered during this time caused many residents, especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, to go downhill.

May 2020

Recognizing the emotional toll residents suffered during the visitation bans, CMS issued an update in May 2020 to allow phases of visitation to recommence. The reopening phases included taking other recommendations and precautions first. For example, requiring all nursing home residents, essential, non-essential and volunteer staff to undergo a baseline COVID-19 test beforehand.

September 17, 2020

Following the September 17, 2020, update, the first COVID-19 vaccines received full approval, as well as Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since that time, millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents, staff and family members. These vaccines have proven to be effective in reducing the spread of symptomatic SARS-CoV-2.

November 4, 2021

Going forward, the prior restrictions have been discontinued. Now that the vaccinations are helping to reduce the number of new cases, residents can again have family and friends visit at a time of their choosing.

There are concerns about the number of staff who have still not been vaccinated, and on November 4, 2021, CMS issued a regulation requiring all nursing home staff to be vaccinated as a condition for continuing to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Nursing Home Visitations Now

CMS will continue to monitor both vaccination and infection rates, including how the vaccination impacts variants of the virus among residents. That said, CMS says that they do not believe that restricting a resident’s right to have visitation is currently necessary.

Facilities should continue to implement the following visitation guidelines:

  • Screening visitors for symptoms and turning away any who have tested positive for COVID-19, have symptoms of the virus or meet other criteria that require quarantining.
  • Following safe hand hygiene practices – preferably using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Requiring a face covering or mask that properly covers both the mouth and nose
  • Maintaining a minimum distance of six feet between people
  • Putting up signage to instruct visitors and staff of COVID-19 symptoms, infection control, hand washing, etc.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently-handled surfaces in the facility, especially in designated visitation areas
  • Instructing staff on the proper use of PPE
  • Assigning separate/designated areas for residents who have tested positive for COVID versus those who have not
  • Requiring regular resident and staff testing

Contact Our Trusted Law Firm for Legal Help

At PKSD, we are committed to advocating for nursing home residents. If you suspect your loved one is being neglected in his or her nursing home, we are prepared to help.

Contact our law offices anytime, night or day, to speak with a member of our team and schedule your free initial consultation. There is no legal obligation after this meeting and no upfront costs or fees if we represent you.

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