Indoor Visitation: What It Means For Families

March 16, 2021

On March 11, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, announced new guidance for indoor nursing home visitation (Spanish version here). This exciting news means that, for the first time in a year, families can get long-anticipated face-to-face time, including hugs.

This welcome news comes on the heels of widespread vaccinations in long term care facilities. More than four million residents and staff have already received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than two million have received their second. A March 2nd report showed that U.S. nursing homes have seen the lowest number of COVID-19 cases since CMS started tracking this back in May 2020.

Below, we’ve outlined our takeaways from the updated visitation guidelines – and how families can best protect their loved ones when visiting nursing homes.

1. #GetVaccinated. 
While not required to make a visit to a nursing home, CMS is encouraging families of residents to become vaccinated when they have the opportunity. The COVID-19 vaccines are the path to recovery as a country, and they ensure your immunity while protecting your loved one, other residents, and the long term care staff who help them.

AHCA/NCAL, with the help of the CDC, launched an expanded #GetVaccinated campaign to encourage all long term care residents, staff and their families to consent to the vaccines. Learn more about the campaign and share your story here.

2. Stay on guard before you visit.
As we explained in a recent blog post, it’s critical that the families of long term care residents continue to follow infection control measures like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and avoiding large gatherings – even if you’ve been vaccinated. People who receive the vaccine may still be able to spread the virus to others. The vaccine is the best tool we have to bring an end to the pandemic, but we must still continue to be on guard – especially if we are visiting a long term care facility. 

Spread of the virus in the surrounding community has been shown to increase the chance of long term care facilities experiencing cases. So, continue to protect yourself and those you intend to visit by staying careful and limiting your risk of exposure.

3. Make your visit a safe one.
Facilities are allowing “responsible indoor visitation at all times” for all residents, regardless of whether or not the resident (or visitors) are vaccinated, with some restrictions. CMS still recommends that visitors, particularly those who are not vaccinated, maintain social distancing and wear PPE during visits.

Even if both parties are vaccinated, families and residents should maintain physical distance from other residents and staff in the facility.

Are you visiting a loved one in long term care? Tag us on social @ahcancal and share a selfie – and don’t forget to join our effort to #GetVaccinated!