CMS Says U.S. Nursing Homes Should No Longer Allow ‘Most’ Visitors
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma joined President Trump’s news conference on coronavirus on March 13 in the Rose Garden, where he declared a national emergency. Verma announced that guidance will be coming for U.S. nursing homes about harsher visitor restrictions. She also said the new restrictions now include “all visitors and non-essential personnel, with few exceptions, such as end-of-life situations.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that visitors and healthcare personnel are the most likely sources of introduction of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus strain, into a long-term care facility. Many facilities in Illinois have already imposed their own harsh visitor rules in hopes of slowing the spread of the fatal virus that is responsible for the death of 22 residents of a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington as of Wednesday, March 11.
Doing Your Job to Keep Your Loved One Safe
It’s crucial that as tough as this update may feel, please understand there is a reason to keep you from visiting. You must comply with policy updates and try to work with the staff to find another way to stay connected to your family member. If video calls using Facetime, Skype, or another form of communication are not mentioned in your loved one’s facility care plan, request them in writing. Check-in in with your nursing home resident more often too. When you do speak with your family member or loved one, ask questions like:
- Are they letting visitors inside the nursing home?
- Do you notice any new staff?
- How are you feeling?
- Do you have any symptoms like a cough, or fever, or chest pain?
- Have you heard if staff or other residents are out sick?
- Are you being looked after, or are you being ignored?
- Do you feel safe?
- Do you know the signs and symptoms of coronavirus? (review the symptoms of COVID-19 here)
- Are you getting your medications?
- Has anyone asked you for money?
- Did you notice any “no visitor” type of signage?
- When did you last see your nurse or doctor?
- When did you eat last? What did you eat? What have you had to drink today?
- Has anything unusual happened lately?
- Are you able to easily access the phone to call me?
- When were your bed linens and clothing last changed?
- Can you remind other residents and facility staff to continue practicing good hygiene, like washing their hands and avoid touching their face?
- Are you sleeping well?
- Are you sleeping too much?
- Is there anything you would like to tell me?
CMS further suggests you should frequently be monitoring the situation with your resident or their caretakers by phone or email.
How To Support Their Care From Afar When They Have Dementia
For those of you with loved ones battling Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, or those with restricted communication abilities, this may be an extremely difficult time. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests these tips for dementia caregivers of individuals who reside in assisted living or long-term care facilities:
- “Check with the facility regarding their procedures for managing COVID-19 risk. Ensure they have your emergency contact information and the information of another family member or friend as a backup.
- Do not visit your family member if you have any signs or symptoms of illness, even after visitor restrictions have lifted.
- If visitation is not allowed, ask the facility how you can have contact with your family member. Options include telephone calls, video chats, or even emails to check-in.
- If your family member is unable to engage in calls, or video chats, ask the facility how you can keep in touch with facility staff to get updates.”
And remember, the CDC says that dementia does not increase the risk for respiratory illnesses caused by the new coronavirus. However, people with dementia often have an increased age and other risky health conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes that may increase their chances of being infected. The Alzheimer’s Association website also indicates that “people with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent illness. In addition, diseases like COVID-19 and the flu may worsen cognitive impairment due to dementia.”
Coronavirus Concerns for Illinois Nursing Homes
On Wednesday, March 11, Gov. Pritzker announced coronavirus prevention procedures for nursing home staff to follow, and put restrictions on visitors at state-run nursing homes. Understaffing has long been an issue across nursing homes nationwide, and this event is likely to weaken an already battered workforce. Do all you can to deter the continuous bad behaviors and poor management of administrators and owners who choose to routinely understaff and put residents at risk of abuse and neglect. The federal agencies also recommend enforcing sick leave policies for ill workers, even when COVID-19 has not yet been identified in a facility.
While we wait for this latest updated guidance from CMS to be posted, know that Gov. Pritzker can direct state resources to the agency specifically to ensure long-term care facilities are indeed following the most recent infectious disease protocols. Steven Levin, founder and senior partner at Levin & Perconti has encouraged concerned citizens to express their support for this action by contacting the governor’s office.
Respected Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys
If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home or due to a dangerously low level of care staff, they may be entitled to compensation. Please contact us now for a free consultation with one of our skilled nursing home attorneys or call us at (312) 332-2872.