New Federal Guidelines Expand Visitation Options in Some Illinois Nursing Homes, Families Should Lookout for Signs of Abuse or Neglect
Although the risk of COVID-19 transmission within nursing homes and other long-term care facilities has been high, related outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes are down, according to a report by The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. And with many facilities now operating with residents fully vaccinated, in-person nursing home visits are being allowed at some senior living facilities in Illinois.
According to the updated guidance released on March 10, 2021, from CMS, facilities can now allow responsible indoor visitation for all residents unless specific scenarios arise that would limit visitation options, such as an increase in community infections. The updated CDC’ visitation guidance recommends long-term care facilities follow these specific guidelines:
- Facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times, and for all residents, regardless of the vaccination status of the resident or visitor, unless specific scenarios arise that would limit visitation for:
- Unvaccinated residents if; 1) the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10%, and 2) less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
- Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
- Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the requirements for release from quarantine.
Indoor Visitation During an Outbreak
- While outbreaks increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission, a facility should not restrict visitation for all residents as long as there is evidence that the transmission of COVID-19 is contained to a single area (e.g., unit) of the facility. Facilities should continue to adhere to CMS regulations and guidance for COVID-19 testing, including routine staff testing, testing individuals with symptoms, and outbreak testing.
- When a new case of COVID-19 among residents or staff is identified, a facility should immediately begin outbreak testing and suspend all visitation until at least one round of facility-wide testing is completed. Visitation can resume based on the following criteria:
- If the first round of outbreak testing reveals no additional COVID-19 cases in other areas (e.g., units) of the facility, then visitation can resume for residents in areas/units with no COVID-19 cases. However, the facility should suspend visitation on the affected unit until the facility meets the criteria to discontinue outbreak testing.
- If the first round of outbreak testing reveals one or more additional COVID-19 cases in other areas/units of the facility (e.g., new cases in two or more units), then facilities should suspend visitation for all residents (vaccinated and unvaccinated) until the facility meets the criteria to discontinue outbreak testing.
The updated guidance also emphasizes 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.
In Illinois, some nursing home visitors may be able to schedule in-person activities at facilities that haven’t had an active outbreak in the past 14 days and are in counties with low community spread levels. All visitors will be screened when they arrive and must wear masks and practice physical distancing. Families should contact their loved one’s facility for clear guidance.
Preparing for Your Visit and Looking Out for Signs of Abuse or Neglect
This has been an unsettling time for vulnerable residents and their families, and you may be extra sensitive to a visit with greater awareness of the chronic long-term care issues highlighted in the news and your community. But knowing what to do when something seems off can and does save lives. If you are preparing for your first in-person visit with a loved one since the pandemic began, be sure you are familiar with recognizing care deficiencies that may warn of elder abuse or neglect. You can start by asking these simple questions.
- “What activities did you do this week?”
- “How are you?”
- “Have you had a favorite meal lately?”
- “Have you been able to socialize more with your friends?”
- “Do you need any items for your bathroom? Or, would you like to take a shower or bath?”
- “When is the last time you have had your clothing or bedding changed?”
- “Have you been feeling any pains or discomfort?”
- “How are you feeling?”
- “Do you still like it here?”
- “Are you hungry or thirsty?”
- “How is your medication making you feel?”
- “Are the staff treating you good?”
- “Do you feel safe?”
- “Is there anything you want to talk about?”
- “When is the last time your doctor checked in with you?”
It’s vital to report any alarming findings immediately and create a line of questioning for administrators using the responses you received from your loved one. Nursing home owners, local ombudsmen, and possibly legal authorities need to act promptly when any signs or symptoms of neglect or abuse are present.
Physical Abuse Warning Signs
- Having unexplained broken bones, dislocations, or sprains
- Bruising, scars, or welts seen on the body
- Failing to take medications properly
- Signs of restraint, such as rope marks on the elder’s wrist
- Broken eyeglasses or hearing aids
- The refusal of the caregiver to let you be alone with the elderly person
Emotional Abuse Warning Signs
- Unusual behaviors in the older adult which also resemble symptoms of dementia, including mumbling behaviors, sucking one’s thumb, or rocking behaviors.
- You are witnessing belittling, controlling, or threatening behavior on the part of the caregiver or long-term care facility workers.
Sexual Abuse Warning Signs
- Unexplained STDs, pregnancy, other genital infections
- Bruising near the genitals or around the breasts
- Stained, bloody, or torn underwear
- Vaginal or anal bleeding unrelated to a medical condition
Caregiver Neglect Warning Signs
- Leaving the elderly personal alone at risk of a dangerous fall, wandering, or elopement
- Unsafe living conditions, such as a lack of heat, faulty electrical wiring, fire hazards, or lack of running water
- Being unsuitably dressed for the weather
- Not bathing the person or leaving them dirty
- Living with soiled bed clothing, dirty clothes, bugs, or filthy conditions
- The presence of bedsores from not turning the patient regularly
- Having an unusual loss of weight or dehydration
The warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect should NEVER be tolerated, expected, or ignored.
Chicago Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys Can Help Your Family
Levin & Perconti has been tirelessly at work since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Our attorneys continue to support hundreds of Illinois families seeking justice in the most tragic cases of abuse and preventable neglect. If you choose to make a legal claim against an Illinois nursing home, please contact us for a consultation at 877-374-1417 or in Chicago at 312-332-2872. All calls and discussions with our attorneys are welcome, accessible, and always confidential.
Source: Fact sheet CMS Updates Nursing Home Guidance with Revised Visitation Recommendations. (2021, March 10). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-updates-nursing-home-guidance-revised-visitation-recommendations