What are the new guidelines for nursing home visits?

Nursing homes and other assisted living and developmental disability homes should now allow responsible indoor visits for all residents, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued the updated guidance this week as more than three million doses of vaccines have been administered within nursing homes, according to a release.

“CMS recognizes the psychological, emotional and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents, and their families,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher chief medical officer and director of CMS’ center for clinical standards and quality. “That is why, now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and the number of COVID cases in nursing homes has dropped significantly, CMS is updating its visitation guidance to bring more families together safely. This is an important step that we are taking, as we continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, given the continued risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

While the guidelines call for indoor visits at all times, it does identify certain scenarios that would limit visitation, including:

  • Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and fewer than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated
  • Residents with a confirmed COVID-19 infection
  • Residents in quarantine

The updated guidance also says that “compassionate care” visits should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate or an outbreak. Compassionate care visits include visits for a resident whose health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances, the release stated.

If you are not sure if the visiting rules are being applied correctly at your facility or your loved one’s facility, the Long-term Care Ombudsman program is staffed with free public advocates who can help you navigate the system. The Dayton-area ombudsman office serves Montgomery, Preble, Greene, Clark, Miami, Darke, Logan, Shelby and Champaign counties and can be contacted by calling 937-223-4613 or 1-800-395-8267 or online at dayton-ombudsman.org.

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