With hugs for nursing home residents ok again, the guidance will be a boon for the mental and emotional well-being of residents previously isolated due to COVID.

New guidance recently released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) permits vaccinated nursing home residents to receive hugs from their loved ones again. According to an Associated Press News article, the new guidance, which follows a big trend downward in coronavirus infections and deaths and an uptick in nursing home vaccinations, will provide much-needed solace to residents who’ve had to endure months of isolation during the pandemic.

Grappling with poor infection control and staffing issues, American nursing homes were devastated by the coronavirus, which ripped through the close quarters of vulnerable elderly or medically fragile residents and among nursing home staff in the early months of the pandemic, leading to over 163,000 deaths and accounting for more than a third of the country’s COVID-19 deaths. Soon after the pandemic began ravaging nursing homes last spring, emergency isolation policies were put in place.  Although deemed necessary by dire circumstances, the isolation of residents from one another and from their loved ones had its own consequences, particularly among dementia patients. For many residents, the isolation brought on depression, which in turn impacted eating and mobility, leading to increased frailty and more frequent falls.  It wasn’t until community case numbers were in significant decline last fall that homes began reintroducing socially-distant outdoor visitation and limited indoor visits from loved ones.

According to the AP article, it was the sharp decline in cases and deaths following the rollout of coronavirus vaccines late last year that motivated the CMS to issue this new guidance, which is considered to be a step toward normalcy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that large numbers of residents and staff members have been fully vaccinated—about 1.4 million residents and over 930,000 workers.

Stating that no substitute for physical contact exists, the CMS guidance says a “warm embrace between a resident and their loved one” is now possible, provided the resident has received full vaccination and continues to take such precautions as wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer before and after the visit.

While the CMS guidance encourages nursing homes to permit indoor visits “at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status,” the agency strongly suggests nursing homes schedule visits and impose time limits, and also urge visitors to get their vaccines as soon as possible. In cases where a resident has COVID or must be placed in quarantine for exposure, visitation is not allowed. CMS still upholds outdoor visits as being safest even when visitors and loved ones are vaccinated.

Fighting for Your Loved One during Trying Times

Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are required to meet health and safety standards requirements and to ensure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. Meeting these standards rests on quality of care:  the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives must avoid any poor care that results in nursing home neglect or abuse [https://www.thenursinghomeattorneys.com/nursing-home-abuse-and-neglect/]. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.