By Kate Hickner & Erika Apelis
For many of our friends and clients, having a loved one in a nursing home is more challenging than ever before. Residents of nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus due to age and underlying illness.
Most Ohio nursing homes have taken the position that, in general, nursing home residents may not receive visitors during the coronavirus pandemic. In our experience, nursing home visitors are being prevented from entering the facilities unless the resident is in an end-of-life situation.
These policies are consistent with the guidance that has been issued at the state and federal level and also consistent with other applicable state and federal health care laws. Although these constraints are difficult for nursing homes, their residents and their families, experts believe that they are an appropriate temporary measure necessary to protect the nursing home population.
On March 11, 2020, the state of Ohio issued a Joint Directors Order from the Director of the Ohio Department of Health and the Director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. In addition to providing helpful guidance regarding health precautions that should be taken by every nursing home to mitigate risk, the Joint Directors Order requires nursing homes to generally restrict access to those personnel who are absolutely necessary for the operation of the nursing homes, except for up to one visitor per resident per day. The Joint Directors Order was then amended to provide that no visitors are permitted. Under the Order, additional flexibility is permitted when there is an end of life situation.
Then, on March 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum based upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendations. The guidance directs nursing homes to:
- Restrict all visitors, effective immediately, with exceptions for compassionate care, such as end-of-life situations;
- Restrict all volunteers and nonessential personnel, health care or otherwise;
- Cancel all group activities and communal dining; and
- Implement active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms.
In lieu of in-person visits, CMS has encouraged nursing homes to facilitate virtual communications between residents and their families and to keep the residents’ loved ones informed of their care.
The KJK Healthcare and Elder Law Practice Groups are available to provide guidance to nursing homes, their residents and their loved ones during this difficult time. For more information, please feel free to contact Healthcare Chair Kate Hickner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.736.7279, or Elder Law Partner Erika Apelis at email@example.com or 216.716.5637.