The Covid-19 pandemic that took over much of 2020 dealt a particularly tough blow to those of us with loved ones residing in nursing homes or other facilities geared toward the aging. Our elderly loved ones may look forward to our visits and depend on them for socialization and connection to the outside world. For many of us, these visits were abruptly halted last March. As we make our way into 2021, you may be wondering, will I be able to visit my loved one in his or her nursing home this year? The answer may depend on how well your state or local area is able to contain the virus, the rate of vaccinations, and the length of time it takes to safely return to normal. For most of us, while consistent visits may not be realistic right now, the chances may increase over the summer and autumn.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) makes recommendations for nursing homes and typically follows the advice of the CDC. Just as the CDC has shortened the recommended quarantine period from 14 to 10 days, CMS has now adjusted its own guidelines. In 2020 CMS was recommending that nursing homes only re-open to visitors if 28 days had elapsed since there was even one confirmed Covid-19 case among its residents or staff. Now, CMS recommends that only 14 days must have passed in order to re-open to visitors.

CMS is recommending that visitors to nursing homes be screened for Covid-19 symptoms. Some may ask for a negative test within a certain number of days prior to the visit. Others may ask you to sign a statement similar to the one you sign to go to medical appointments, stating that you do not have symptoms. The rules may vary by facility and by area, so this can be where your individual circumstances make a difference.

If you are cleared for a visit, your loved one’s nursing home should have social distancing measures in place. They will probably be testing their staff regularly and should have enough equipment to allow staff to change masks regularly. If funding is limited, the nursing home’s ability to accommodate visitors may be more limited. In general, because fewer visitors can be accommodated in any given time period, you should expect that even when you can visit your loved one, visits may be spaced apart.

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