Can a Nursing Home Implement a Facility-Wide Lockdown?
Across the country, nursing homes are restricting access to visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak in long term care facilities. COVID-19 is particularly dangerous to the elderly, infirm residents in nursing homes. Additionally, because of the close quarters of a skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility, social distancing is not always possible.
Most nursing homes are banning visitors with flu like symptoms. However, many facilities have opted to lock down the nursing home to outsiders and prevent family visitation altogether.
As nursing home abuse lawyers, many potential clients are contacting us asking if a nursing home is allowed to restrict visitor access due to the corona virus.
Is it Legal for the Nursing Home to Prevent Family Visitation?
Due to the extreme threat posed by COVID-19, yes, it is legal for a facility to stop you from entering to see your parent.
In fact, many state health departments are issuing orders restricting non-essential personnel from entering long term care facilities.
I am Healthy, so Why Can I Not See my Parent in the Facility?
Restricting nursing home visitation is for your own safety, and the safety of the facility residents.
Younger, healthy individuals may carry the disease for up to two weeks before showing any symptoms. Further, coronavirus may present little to no symptoms in you, but may prove fatal to an immunocompromised 88 year old nursing home resident with underlying conditions.
What About My Loved One’s Legal Rights Relating to Family Visits?
Nursing Home Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal OBRA 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The Residents’ Rights laws guarantee the safety and welfare of all nursing home residents.
Encompassed in the Residents’ Rights is the right to visitation from outsiders. Specifically, a nursing home resident has a legal right to visits:
- By a resident’s personal physician and representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman programs;
- By relatives, friends, and others of the residents’ choosing; and,
- By organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services.
However, contained in that same bill of rights are protections against harm and preventable injury. This would include a nursing home’s obligation to take reasonable steps to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Government’s Current Guidelines Relating to Nursing Home Visitation
The Centers for Disease Control has issued revised guidelines for nursing home visitation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak:
Limiting Visitation: For facilities that are in counties, or counties adjacent to other counties where a COVID-19 case has occurred, we recommend limiting visitation (except in certain situations as indicated above). For example, a daughter who visits her mother every Monday, would cease these visits, and limit her visits to only those situations when her mom has a significant issue. Also, during the visit, the daughter would limit her contact with her mother and only meet with her in her room or a place the facility has specifically dedicated for visits.
Facilities should actively screen and restrict visitation by those who meet the following criteria: 1. Signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. 2. In the last 14 days, has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID19, or under investigation for COVID-19, or are ill with respiratory illness. 3. International travel within the last 14 days to countries with sustained community transmission. 4. Residing in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring.
As is often the case when balancing freedom with safety, we must find a compromise.
Coronavirus presents an unprecedented threat to long term care residents who live in close proximity to each other in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities. Our healthcare agencies and elected officials have come together to issue strong warnings against social visitation in facilities. Although it is difficult to not see your loved one during this time, restricted visits are necessary to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Denying Visitation with my Family Member?
Under normal circumstances, arbitrarily denying visitation with family would be considered a rights violation. However, due to the uniqueness of the corona virus pandemic, nursing homes are permitted to deny visitation.
In fact, if a nursing home failed to take steps to isolate and quarantine vulnerable residents, they are likely to be sued in a coronavirus nursing home lawsuit.
What Legal Basis Does a Nursing Home Have to Deny Visitation due to Corona Virus?
Regulations related to restricting a resident’s right to visitors can be found at 42 CFR §483.10(f)(4), and at F-tag 563 of Appendix PP of the State Operations Manual. Specifically, a facility may need to restrict or limit visitation rights for reasonable clinical and safety reasons.
My Parent Needs Me and the Nursing Home is on Lockdown; What Can I Do?
Nursing homes across the U.S. have offered alternatives to physical visitation. This may mean video chats, telephone access and pre-recorded videos. Additionally, it is recommended that your family schedule routine phone calls with facility caretakers to get regular updates on your loved one’s condition.
It is devastating to be denied access to the people we love. But in the interest of stemming the spread of coronavirus, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are legally allowed to restrict or limit family visits.« Previous PostNext Post »