13 Oct 2020

How to Ensure Safe Visitation for Care Facility Residents

The COVID-19 pandemic has had especially tragic consequences for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two out of every five deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the US are from residents of such institutions.

Unfortunately, extended-care facilities can present a perfect storm for deadly outbreaks. Residents tend to consist of the elderly and/or people struggling with chronic health conditions – both of which are demographic factors that significantly increase the probability of dying from the virus. Also, care facilities can sometimes lack ready access to COVID-19 virus test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), or proper staff training to prevent infection.

Residents, who may share rooms, often travel back and forth from care facilities to hospitals and other medical settings, and employees often work in multiple locations. These conditions increase the chance of virus spread, and this is in an industry that had chronic problems with infectious outbreaks even before the pandemic.

Because long-term facilities such as nursing homes, assisted care complexes, and other residential care settings are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, visitation has been essentially shut down since March. Now, however, many states are beginning to lift restrictions and allow visitors again, but to do so safely will require strict adherence to safety protocols and procedures.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided guidelines for long-term care facilities, which include:

  • strictly limited visitation
  • suspension of communal dining and group activities for residents
  • daily screening of residents for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms
  • symptom screening for anyone entering the building
  • flexible sick-leave policies for staff members
  • requirement for staff to wear facemasks

According to AARP, many states are easing visitation restrictions if the facility has gone a set period with no new COVID-19 cases. When visitation for a specific facility resumes, the policy will likely require that all visitors are screened for fever and other symptoms at each entrance, wear masks and observe social distancing. Some facilities are even recommending or mandating that visits take place outside.

In-person visitations are critical for the health and emotional well-being of residents of long-term facilities; isolation is proven to have harmful impacts on both mental and physical health. Nursing homes, assisted care, residential care and rehab centers should make efforts to enable safe visitation. Innovations such as automated health screening kiosks can be a valuable tool in mitigating risk. If cases of infection begin to rise again in care facilities, it is likely visitations will be canceled, leaving an already vulnerable population without the benefit of social connection or human contact.

Facility managers or owners of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities interested in mitigating the risks for their residents, employees and visitors should visit our website or contact us to learn more about our automated solutions for indoor environments.

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