On March 13, CMS issued updated guidance for visitors to nursing homes related to COVID-19. If your loved one is residing in a nursing home, the facility should be actively screening and restricting or limiting visitors according to CMS guidelines. CMS is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In addition to guidance on screening and restricting or limiting visitors, CMS recommends that nursing homes do the following:
- Review and revise how they interact with volunteers, vendors, agency staff, EMS personnel and equipment, transportation workers, and other practitioners
- Review and revise how they receive supplies.
- Continue to admit any residents they would normally admit to their nursing home, including individuals from a hospital where COVID-19 is present.
- When possible, nursing homes should designate a unit or wing exclusively for residents admitting or returning from the hospital. These residents should remain in this unit for a period of 14 days to monitor for any symptoms before relocating or returning to a short-term rehab or long-stay room.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you experience the symptoms of COVID-19 or have reason to believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your healthcare provider before visiting a healthcare facility.
To help prevent the spread of germs, you should:
- Stay home when feeling sick.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, multiple times a day. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
How to stay connected to a loved one
There are many ways you can keep in touch with loved ones in nursing homes. The telephone continues to be an important communication tool. Also, for loved ones that are tech savvy and able to use apps on smartphones, apps like Facetime, Skype, and What’s App are excellent communications tools and can provide visual confirmation that your loved one is OK. Lastly, ask the nursing home facility to provide alerts of any changed conditions through email or Twitter alerts. Now more than ever there are many ways to stay connected while apart.