Harley Sagrera and Kristen Deville
Feature photo: Amelia Manor Nursing Home resident Mr. Paul celebrated his birthday socially distanced from his family. Photo provided by Amelia Manor Nursing Home Facebook page.
During the ongoing pandemic, nursing homes are keeping safety a top priority by following federal and state guidelines for visitation.
Since March, nursing homes have adhered to the regulations created by the Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the state government. When Louisiana moved into phase three at the beginning of September, CMS released new guidelines that nursing homes quickly adopted.
CMS allows two types of visitation, indoor and outdoor. The new guidelines outline specific requirements which guests and staff must follow. According to the CMS website, some requirements for outdoor visitation include limiting the number and size of visits and having a delegated outdoor area to meet. For indoor visitation in nursing homes, the facility must limit the number of visitors and restrict where guests have access upon a visitor’s arrival.
“Outdoor visitation is preferred and can also be conducted in a manner that reduces the risk of transmission. Outdoor visits pose a lower risk of transmission due to increased space and airflow,” according to the CMS website.
Deborah Candella, the director of nursing at Amelia Manor Nursing Home said they are only conducting outdoor visits right now. This decision was made after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Candella.
According to Candella, they have a two person limitation which is based on a mandate from CMS, which asks to reduce the number of visitors. She said this is a standard practice most nursing homes are following and that having more than two visitors makes it more difficult to remain socially distant. In addition, Amelia Manor is following safety regulations, screening all visitors to ensure that they have no symptoms and requiring all guests to wear masks.
If families are unable to have in-person visits with residents then Amelia Manor will make accommodations for them. Virtual communication and visits where families can meet with their loved one through a window or glass door are some of the alternative methods used, according to Candella.
If residents contract the virus, Amelia Manor has a plan set in place to quarantine them away from the other residents. Candella said they have a designated area for residents who test positive and assigned staff members who are responsible for taking care of only them.
Bob Richardson, the chief compliance officer for Central Control, LLC, said that CMS requires nursing homes to test their staff on a regular basis. According to Richardson, the facilities that he oversees test their staff once a week. He said visitors are not required by CMS to be tested before they enter a facility.
According to Richardson, one positive case is considered an outbreak by CMS, whether it is an employee or resident. Richardson said the CMS requires all residents and employees to be tested once a week until 14 days have passed with no positive cases. After 14 days with no cases, facilities are allowed to resume in-person visitation.
“We want our families to come in, and we know how important that is. But at the end of the day, we are responsible for the residents that live in our facilities… We have the opportunity to take care of our residents and we want to make sure that they are taken care of to the best of our abilities,” Richardson said.