IPCWell - Infection Control Consultant & Expert - United States

As we have attempted to keep COVID-19 out of our long-term care facilities, we have had to take some drastic measures. The following is a proven process for reopening your facility to visitors because it is imperative that visitation does not lead to the transmission of COVID-19.

While heavy restrictions were the first response to guard residents from COVID19 we are not surprised to see that social isolation presents significant risks to emotional and social well-being. Even with the heavy lockdowns, the virus entered facilities as staffers came and went, and we soon realized the harms of isolation exceeded potential benefits. Finding the correct balance of visitation restrictions with the well-being of residents is a cautious and measured process, but critical to resident health and safety.

On September 17th, CMS issued a memorandum providing guidance and instruction for safely reopening to visitors. The memorandum supersedes and replaces previously issued guidance and recommendations regarding visitation. Review and follow this memorandum to safely reopen your facility to visitation. It also includes a “Frequently Asked Questions” document that is a valuable resource to reference when navigating reopening.

When deciding on outdoor vs. indoor visitations, much depends on community-wide spread, and if you actually have COVID-19 positive cases in your facility. To allow indoor visitations, community-wide spread must be less than 5% and visitors need a negative test before entering. Negative tests should occur 2-3 days before a visit.

Compassionate Care visitations have been required by the federal government throughout this pandemic, just make sure to read the required visitation section to validate that you are in compliance. I cannot stress enough the importance of our residents being able to see their loved ones, as it has been so long.

This memorandum also includes how you can access additional support. Topics like filing for federal disability rights, laws and protections, and advocacy programs are covered.  You can also access information on gaining additional support from your ombudsman within the memorandum. Remember that you can have the use of the CMP funds to aid in visitations.

In summary, make use of this memorandum to be well on your way to providing the visitation our residents so desperately need. Thank you to all our healthcare worker superheroes out there, be safe and be well.