Essential Care Visitor for Loved Ones in Nursing Homes

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August 18, 2020

Seema Verma
Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington DC 20201

Governors Across the United States of America:

Dear Administrator Verma and Honorable Governors:

Residents living in nursing homes are in partnership with family caregivers that work directly with staff to provide care help and oversight for their loved ones' daily needs.   

Essential Care Visitors are VITAL to our vulnerable population's care.  It is a human right for our loved ones to receive this representative care, as well as supporting the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law that outlines protection and such resident's rights in residential facilities.

Since Mid-March, 2020 your Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suspended all visitation in nursing facilities from visitors to mitigate a virus. 

As you know, the nursing home landscape has suffered throughout the decades from complicated staffing issues that contribute daily to the tragic decline and loss of life of persons living in congregate communities.   COVID-19 illuminated this sad reality. 

From day one, you have allowed the 'compassionate care' visitors to enter facilities. On June 23, 2020 - you expanded this definition of compassionate care visitors.  Yet, we need you to write an Essential Care Visitor category mandate immediately so we can resume our care. 

Essential Care Visitors (consisting of family members - wives, daughters, sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, sisters and brothers) were the missing care link for complicated staffing shortages in nursing homes for over the past 50 years.

We, Essential Care Visitors, have not been able to see our loved ones to give care since Mid-March, 2020.   As we work through phase two of this pandemic - we are now at risk and are losing our loved ones to death from isolation, depression, neglect and malnutrition.    Residents have experienced separation from supplemental care that essential care visitors provide.   This is unacceptable and inhumane.

It has been FIVE LONG MONTHS.  We need to continue our supplemental care for our loved ones and continue the daily care effective immediately to prevent loss of life. 

We suggest the following for Essential Care Visitor modification in order to keep our loved ones safe appropriately cared for:

~Identify Essential Care Visitor in each facility with each Family representative - (Immediately) - Person has to have visited a minimum of 4-5x a week pre-pandemic.

~Test and Screen ONE Family Member who will be the designated Essential Care Visitor - providing them access to COVID-19 test like to other healthcare workers - 

~Allow Essential Care Visitor Visits at least 3 x a week for a 1 hour visit (Phase 1)  similar to the Compassionate Care / Hospice Visitor Protocol (Upon Confirmation of COVID-19 - Negative Status)

~Social worker for each Family must create a letter identifying the visitor as an Essential Care Visitor for entry into facility and continued clearance, as well to have access to COVID-19 test. 

~Provide appropriate PPE Gear for Essential Care Visitor

~Provide safe room (if not private room) for this visit, disinfecting space between visits.

Essential Care Visitors are an integral part of achieving the goal of the Nursing Home Reform Act, which  ensures that residents of nursing homes receive quality care that will result in their achieving or maintaining their "highest practicable" physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being. 

We can't imagine what our loved ones have just lived through.  They need our support and care visit as Essential Care Visitors.

Include Essential Care Visitors in your re-opening of America!  Our loved ones need us NOW.

ESSENTIAL CARE VISITORS of America

www.essentialcarevisitor.com