UNDERSTANDING THE NEED FOR RESTRICTIONS IN NURSING HOMES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
While nursing home residents typically have a statutory right to receive visitors, the grave risk that the rampant spread of COVID-19 poses on the frail and vulnerable residents in nursing homes has led to strict, but necessary, restrictions on not only visits from family and friends but also from routine visits from non-essential health care personnel. Additionally, social distancing within the nursing home has led to changes in daily activities leaving the compassionate nursing staff to find new ways to keep nursing home residents entertained. While these changes are understandably concerning to the family and friends of nursing home residents, the restrictions are deemed necessary in the effort to reduce exposure to COVID-19 in the nursing home setting.
In response to the recommendations from both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that all visitation to nursing home residents be restricted except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life situations, nursing homes have been creative in finding alternative ways for residents to safely “visit” with their loved ones through video communication and window visits while asking community volunteers from schools, scouts, and church groups to postpone their usual visits.
The CDC and CMS have also recommended that non-essential healthcare personnel (HCP) be restricted thereby causing routine visits from the dentist and eye doctor to be postponed. Similarly, visits from the hairdresser and barber have also been restricted as infection control understandably trumps a set and style.
In response to recommendations restricting group activities within nursing homes as part of social distancing measures, nursing home staff have again shown creativity by providing alternative means of entertainment (at a 6 foot distance) with games of hallway BINGO and other no touch activities.
Communal dining has also been restricted leaving the dining rooms empty as residents dine at a safe distance from other residents as part of safe social distancing.
While visitation and activities of daily living in the nursing home setting have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, loved ones of nursing home residents should understand that these precautions are necessary to reduce the risk of infection to those at the highest risk of developing life threatening complications from COVID-19. Nursing homes look forward to the day that COVID-19 is behind us the doors can safely reopen to accept visitors, but in the interim, nursing homes ask for understanding and patience so that they can devote their time to what is most important – taking care of their treasured residents.