Many guardians are wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact their responsibilities. The National Guardianship Association, the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, and the National Center for State Courts have worked together to develop a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” or FAQs. Throughout the list of FAQs, they have provided suggestions and resources to help guardians navigate these uncertain times. The organizations indicate that the document will be updated as circumstances change, and as additional questions and answers are added.

There are many helpful suggestions for guardians contained in the answers to the FAQs. For example, the FAQs discuss federal guidance which restricts in-person visits to residents in nursing homes. However, if you cannot visit your ward or loved one in person, you still have a duty to maintain contact and be as up to date as possible on his or her condition, needs, and concerns. Guardians have a responsibility to maintain contact and monitor well-being of their wards through remote access. And, federal guidance encourages nursing homes to facilitate contact with residents through “alternative means of communication.” Nursing homes “need to facilitate resident communication” with patient representatives who have a role in safeguarding resident rights, including guardians, conservators, agents with a power of attorney, and representative payees.

“Alternative means of communication” include remote communication: phone calls, texts, video chats or email.  Also, talk with facility staff including nurses, aides, social workers, activity directors, or anyone with direct access to the ward can help a guardian receive updates on the ward’s health and medical needs. Also, guardians should be sure to participate by phone or video in-care planning meetings.

Another helpful answer to a FAQ is how a guardian can I find out whether the nursing home has confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. The  Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued an Interim Final Rule (May 1, 2020) requiring nursing homes to inform residents, their representatives (including guardians), and families by 5 pm the next calendar day following the occurrence of a confirmed COVID-10 infection or if three or more residents or staff exhibit new symptoms within 72 hours of each other. This communication must include actions the facility is taking to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission and be updated at least weekly. The facility need not make individual contacts to you as guardian — it may use general means of communication such as websites and recorded phone messages. Check out pages 180-181 in the interim final rule for the details.

Unlike nursing homes, currently there is no COVID-19 related federal regulation of residential housing and care settings such as adult foster homes, assisted living, group homes, or other similar models. Unfortunately, COVID-19 appears to spread quickly, with tragic results contributing to high rates of infection and death comparable to nursing homes, in group residential settings for older persons or people with disabilities. Thus, states have imposed restrictions on visits. If visits are not possible, check in with your clients or loved one as frequently as possible via remote access.

There is more information helpful to guardians in the answers to the list of FAQs, which is attached here –

Download (PDF, 345KB)

For additional information concerning nursing home law and litigation, visit:

Nursing Home Law and Litigation