Skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are banning family members from visiting their elderly as a protection against spreading the coronavirus virus. Seniors are the most susceptible population to this virus due to their weak immune immune systems. Moreover, many seniors already suffer from one or more underlying diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart issues.
The strict ban allows exceptions for families to visit loved ones nearing the end of their lives, but even those situations require review. This directive comes directly from an updated memo on COVID-19 protocols from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Skilled Nursing Facilities: Protecting Seniors From Coronavirus
The Federal government formally issued new guidance, late last week, prohibiting all non-essential visits to nursing homes. The objective is to minimize the effects of the coronavirus on elderly Americans.
Decisions about visitation during an end of life situation will be made on a case by case basis. For example, careful screening of the visitor (including clergy, bereavement counselors, etc.) for fever or respiratory symptoms, will be done. Those with symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat) will not be permitted to enter the facility at any time. This will apply even in end-of-life situations.
Those visitors allowed into the facility will be restricted to a single designated room, and will be required to wear protective equipment for the duration of their stay.
In addition, health care workers, including third-party practitioners such as hospice staff and dialysis technicians, are exempt from the bans. Nevertheless, they too, are required to wear protective gowns when in the facility.
In addition to these new regulations, CMS has also ordered the complete suspension of all group activities in nursing homes. Furthermore, all staff members beginning their shifts will be screened.
Banning To Save Lives
These stricter protocols are put into place as part of a wider emergency response to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
CMS had previously only banned visits from people who displayed symptoms of respiratory illness. However, as the virus has spread, with the seniors the most vulnerable, stricter measures have been put into place.
There is no current timeline for how long the federal ban will last.
The emergency declaration also includes a waiver of the three-day stay rule for receiving Medicare coverage of skilled nursing care. Previously, before the arrival of the coronavirus, Medicare beneficiaries had to spend three days at a hospital as an inpatient in order to receive 100 days of covered care at a SNF.