Family Communication with Nursing Home Residents Required During Covid19

Family Communication with Nursing Home

As COVID-19 rages on, governments around the world are taking stricter measures to protect senior citizens in nursing homes by limiting their physical interaction with families. In the U.S., the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued these new measures which are intended to keep the nursing home residents safe. These measures implement new rules for family communication with nursing home residents during the pandemic.

Measures To Protect Senior Citizens in Nursing Homes

The measures by CMS come from the new recommendations from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It requires nursing homes to restrict visitors, communal activities, gatherings, and the presence of nonessential personnel inside nursing homes. These measures are CMS’s latest action to ensure protection for America’s senior citizens who have the highest risk to develop complications from COVID-19. Visitor restrictions may be difficult for the residents of nursing homes but it is an important and temporary measure for their protection. One might wonder how necessary these measures are and what impact they would have. To answer that, Seema Verma, CMS Administrator pointed out:

“As we learn more about the Coronavirus from experts on the ground, we’ve learned that seniors with multiple conditions are at highest risk for infection and complications, so CMS is using every tool at our disposal to keep nursing homes free from infection.”

These new measures supersede previous CMS guidelines and include the institutions’ most aggressive recommendations to lock nursing homes in a safety cushion in the face of the spreading coronavirus. These measures include:

  1. Restricting all visitors effective immediately, except for compassionate care ( in end-of-life cases). In such cases, visitors will be given personal protective equipment like masks and the visit will be limited to a specific location in the building only.
  2. Canceling communal dining and group activities
  3. Restricting volunteers and nonessential healthcare staff and other personnel like barbers etc.
  4. Implementing screening of nursing home residents and healthcare staff for respiratory symptoms or fever.

CMS’s guidance was developed based on CDC recommendations delivered by real-time information gathering from experts in the field and in areas where there is a large number of COVID-19 positive cases, like California and Washington. According to the CDC, senior citizens who have multiple health conditions are at a higher risk of complications. Nursing homes are very prone to the rapid spread of the virus because of large gatherings for this vulnerable part of the population. 

Already there have been many reports of large numbers of cases of COVID-10 spreading rapidly in nursing homes including Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington. This is particularly more dangerous because the spread of the coronavirus in a nursing home can amplify further spread to other facilities when patients are transferred or when the visitors and staff members come and go.

According to CDC, visitors and healthcare staff that are ill are more likely to be the source of introducing COVID-19 into the nursing home. This fact has necessitated the change in guidance to restrict personnel and visitors.

Impact of Isolation on Skilled Nursing Residents during Covid 19

CMS also understands how important it is to keep nursing home residents connected with their families and loved ones. However, the quick spread of COVID-19 and its transmission through visitors and healthcare staff members have made it mandatory to restrict nonessential visitation to safeguard residents’ health that is susceptible to complications from the virus.
However, instead of visits nursing homes are encouraged to facilitate increased virtual communication between families and residents in addition to encouraging nursing homes to keep residents’ families and loved ones informed about their health and condition. This includes assigning a staff member as a primary point of contact for families to facilitate inbound communication and outbound communication.
Nursing homes are expected to defer visits from families and loved ones until further notice through signage or other outreach methods. Taking a cue from these recommendations, Governor Ned Lamont in Connecticut has issued an order to implement standards at nursing homes that ensure residents can speak with their families through video conferencing or windows.

Hucu makes family communication simple and effective

New Rules for Family Communication with Nursing Home Residents in Connecticut

Since visitors are barred from meeting nursing home residents in person, it was only logical to have an alternate solution to ensure families stay connected to their loved ones in nursing homes. According to the order by Governor Ned Lamont, every facility has to regularly facilitate reasonable and practical alternative means of communication between family/other individuals and residents as designated by the resident or his legal representative as they will be denied entry to the facility due to visitation restrictions.

The order also mentioned the means of communication which include window visits, virtual visitation via technological solutions like Zoom, Face Time, Microsoft Teams, etc., social media communications, and phone calls. These have to take place at least once in a week. Another part of the order says:

“Facilities shall contact the resident’s family, conservator or legal representative to decide together on which specific work shift the visits or technological solutions will be provided. All perimeter visits (i.e. window visits, outdoor social-distancing visits) shall be planned by the Facility with guidelines for safety. There shall not be any window or perimeter visits after sundown. All such visits, which shall be for a minimum of 20 minutes, should be structured so as not to overwhelm Facility staff and to ensure the unintended persons do not breach the premises.
“Facilities shall provide guidance and assistance to the resident in the use of such technological solutions and shall regularly inform residents and their family members of the availability of such communication options and how they may be scheduled; and Facilities that are unable to provide such communication and visitation alternatives shall immediately inform and work with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program to find and implement a resolution.”
These new rules to communicate with residents in nursing homes can open the door to several technological possibilities that can solve this problem and help healthcare staff members organize themselves to provide better care. One such solution is Hucu is an app for Effective Communication in Healthcare which is a HIPAA compliant, free text messaging application.

How Hucu Facilitates the New Rules of Communication in Nursing Homes

Hucu offers two solutions that would facilitate communication between nursing home residents and their loved ones, and would also help nursing home facility organize their processes to provide better care and cut costs.
Hucu has integrated Zoom video conferencing service in its platform so that residents in nursing homes or any patient in a healthcare facility can video conference with their loved ones or even doctors. The video conferencing feature allows healthcare staff to consult senior doctors in other facilities in critical situations – which can help prevent hospitalizations. Stats show that using communication tools can reduce hospitalizations from nursing homes by 50%.
Hucu is a HIPAA compliant text messaging application that allows healthcare professionals to communicate with each other about patients, processes, and share patient data safely.

Healthcare staff members can create virtual wards of their patients and regularly update the information so that other staff members stay updated in real-time about the condition of those patients. This also helps staff members to list down and share to-dos and patient data. It eliminates the time wasted in processing paper forms, photocopying patient data for the next doctor on duty, and chances of miscommunication within the facility. Since everyone carries a smartphone, Hucu can be implemented in any healthcare facility effortlessly. It helps cut costs and streamline the work cut out for healthcare staff members so that they have more time which can be used to improve patient-centered care.

With the new orders directing the new rules of communication in nursing homes, it is only time before telehealth solutions like Hucu would become the preferred solution because telehealth can help implement the new recommendation and also facilitate communication within a healthcare facility.

Learn More about Hucu.ai and other virtual communication methods.

Information Source: CMS.GOV, injurylaw-ny

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