CMS Announces Stricter Guidelines For Visiting Nursing Facility Residents To Prevent The Spread Of COVID-19

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of nursing home residents by enforcing the standards required to help each resident attain or maintain their highest level of well-being. In light of the recent spread of COVID-19, CMS provided guidelines for visiting nursing facility residents, to help control and prevent the spread of the virus.

In general, visitors are not allowed, “except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation.” For individuals who enter in compassionate situations (e.g., end-of-life care), facilities should require visitors to perform hand hygiene, use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as facemasks, and restrict visitation to a specific room only.

Facilities are instructed to make decisions concerning visitation on an individual basis, including screening potential visitors for fever or respiratory symptoms. Those with such symptoms cannot visit, without exception.

Overall, the guidance communicates the heightened risk faced by nursing facility residents. To inhibit the spread of COVID-19, the guidance suggests that the visitor and resident stay six feet apart. Facilities are instructed to facilitate phone calls and video chats. All group activities, including meals, are prohibited.

Additional guidance:

  1. Cancel communal dining and all group activities, such as internal and external group activities.
  2. Implement active screening of residents and staff for fever and respiratory symptoms.
  3. Remind residents to practice social distancing and perform frequent hand hygiene.
  4. Screen all staff at the beginning of their shift for fever and respiratory symptoms. Actively take their temperature and document absence of shortness of breath, new or change in cough, and sore throat.

CMS provided the following link for readers to access critical updates, such as updates to guidance for using PPE:

The stricter CMS guidelines for visiting nursing facility residents are attached here – [gview file=””]

So, is there any way to stay connected to family members in a nursing home when visits are banned? Families are taking varying tacks to keep in contact with their loved ones, many of whom don’t fully understand why their family is no longer visiting. Nursing homes are also helping to facilitate contact. Some options for keeping in touch, suggested by the experts at ElderLawAnswers, include the following:

  • Phone calls. Phone calls are still an option to be able to talk to your loved one.
  • Window visits. Families who are able to visit their loved one’s window can use that to have in-person visits. You can hold up signs and blow kisses. Talking on a cell phone or typing messages on it and holding them up to the window may be a way to have a conversation.
  • Facetime and Skype. Many nursing homes are facilitating video calls with families using platforms like Facetime or Skype. Some nursing homes have purchased additional iPads, while others have staff members going between rooms with a dedicated iPad to help residents make calls.
  • Cards and letters. Sending cards and letters to your loved ones is another way to show them that you are thinking of them. Some nursing homes have also set up Facebook pages, where people can send messages to residents.

In this unprecedented time, families will need to get creative to stay in touch with their loved ones.

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