The coronavirus-related nursing home visitors ban was lifted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in September 2020. There are new safety precautions that have been put in place in order to keep both visitors and nursing home residents safe. Those looking to visit older Americans in nursing homes should follow all these rules.
Why Was the Nursing Home Ban Lifted?
The CMS lifted its ban on nursing home visitors after six months in part because of the negative effect it was having on the mental health of residents. It was also lifted because nursing homes are now better equipped to handle the coronavirus than they were at the beginning of the outbreak.
The CMS enacted the coronavirus nursing home ban in March 2020 — the start of the crisis in the United States. The visitor ban was put in place in order to protect nursing home residents, who are at high risk of severe coronavirus infections.
Lifting the ban does not mean things are back to normal, though — the CMS has enacted visitation rules to keep both nursing home residents and visitors safe from COVID-19.
Before visiting loved ones living in a nursing home, make sure that you understand all of the new precautions. And, when you do make a visit, check in with your loved ones to ensure they have not been suffering from nursing home abuse while the ban was in place.
New Safety Procedures For Nursing Home Visitors
Facilities are encouraged to follow these CMS guidelines for visitations:
- Screen all visitors for symptoms of COVID-19
- Mandate that visitors wear masks and wash their hands
- Ensure visitors and residents to practice social distancing
- Place signs throughout the facility on COVID-19 education
- Clean surfaces that are touched frequently (such as dining tables)
- Have staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Create separate areas for COVID-19 care
- Make COVID-19 testing available as needed for residents and staff
The CMS also encourages outdoor visitation whenever possible because coronavirus spread is limited outside. However, indoor visitation is acceptable in facilities where there is no COVID-19 spread in the past 14 days and the facility is not conducting outbreak testing.
Will There Be More COVID-19 Nursing Home Visitor Bans?
There currently is a sliding scale for visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CMS suggests that facilities should use the COVID-19 county positivity rate.
If the rate of coronavirus infections within the county is 10% or lower, visits are allowed provided all CMS guidelines are followed. When the rate is above 10%, the CMS only recommends visiting for compassionate care situations (such as if a resident recently moved into the facility or lost a loved one).
At this time, it is not known whether another full-scale coronavirus nursing home ban will occur in the future.
How To Reconnect With Loved Ones After the Ban
If you want to see your loved ones after the lifting of the nursing home visitors ban, make sure that you follow all CMS safety protocols.
Other tips to safely visit nursing home residents include:
- Don’t visit if you feel sick: You don’t want to take the chance of infecting your loved one or anyone else at the facility. Get a coronavirus test and only visit if you are feeling well. Under the CMS guidelines, you won’t be able to enter a nursing home if you have possible COVID-19 symptoms.
- Wear a mask and follow social distancing: Both of these steps have been shown to limit the spread of the coronavirus. These precautions are especially helpful because you or someone you love may have the virus, but might be asymptomatic.
- Consider alternative ways of connecting: If you still feel unsafe about visiting a nursing home resident, there are plenty of ways you can check in with them without an in-person meeting. Calling, video conferencing, or sending a care package are all great options.
Coronavirus Nursing Home Ban and Abuse
During the coronavirus nursing home ban on visitors, older Americans may have suffered from abuse or neglect without family members knowing. As the CMS allows visitors again, family members should look for possible signs of nursing home abuse among their loved ones.
Signs of nursing home abuse include:
- A resident shows fear of their caregiver or a staff member
- Witnessing a caregiver yell at or threaten a resident
- Physical injuries such as broken bones, sprains, bruises, or unexplained falls
- Strange, negative mood changes in a resident
- Unexplained STDs
- Bruising near the genitals
- Bloody or stained underwear
- Unusual weight loss
- Unsafe living conditions
If nursing home abuse is suspected, then family members should act as quickly as possible. That means contacting law enforcement and legal counsel to start an investigation into the incident.
Finally, you may want to move your loved one to another facility if they are in immediate danger.
Prioritize Safety While Visiting Nursing Homes
Reconnecting with seniors is important for their mental health. But if you are visiting a nursing home, it is important to follow protocols to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe.
You should only visit if you are healthy and have not tested positive for COVID-19. If you do decide to visit, get a clear understanding of what’s being done to protect residents — and make sure your loved one has not suffered from elder abuse during the lockdown.