National Consumer Voice: Recommendations to CMS on Visitation

Consumer Voice and Other Advocates Submit Recommendations to CMS on Visitation

Last week, Consumer Voice, with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Long Term Care Community Coalition, and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, sent recommendations to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in light of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and Delta variant.  Over the last 4-6 weeks, the Consumer Voice and our partner advocates have increasingly heard from residents, families, and Ombudsmen about outbreaks occurring in facilities and resulting lockdowns that, to a large degree, are being imposed on all residents of facilities.  In our recommendations, we emphasized the need to apply the lessons learned from the past year to ensure that residents do not once again become isolated and experience the desolation, decline, neglect, anxiety, and other consequences of isolation that have been so prevalent – and devastating – during this pandemic.

Our recommendations to CMS:

Start from the premise that visitation is allowed for all residents at all times. Facilities must ensure that evening and weekend hours are widely available, and that visiting times are reasonable in length (i.e., offer an hour at minimum). By not offering visiting hours during the evening and on weekends, facilities are excluding many families, or putting them in a position of having to take time off work. This burden is unreasonable and unnecessary and does not reflect the needs of the residents and their loved ones.

Outdoor visits must also be permitted, even during outbreaks, weather permitting.

Reiterate and enforce that compassionate care or end-of-life visits are permitted at all times and are not subject to visiting hours or restrictions due to COVID outbreaks. We would recommend clarifying that every resident is eligible for compassionate care visits based on that person’s needs.

Require all persons entering the facility to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test (within 72 hours). Visitors and anyone entering the facility should follow the same infection control and prevention protocols as staff. Permit visits in resident’s rooms and in other designated areas of the facility.

Ensure that surveys and complaint investigations continue, with meaningful enforcement for deficiencies that are cited, even as outbreaks occur or cases rise. Require surveyors to ask about visitation while onsite, even if that is not the subject of a complaint.

Reiterate in the guidance that nursing homes are expected to have sufficient staffing at all times to meet the needs of residents, including assistance with visitation.

Read the full recommendations here.