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COVID-19 Family Information Center

Find the latest resources and information for families and loved ones of residents in nursing homes.

Table of Contents

Nursing Home Family Resource Line

Nursing Home Family Resource Line, 617-660-5399. Call us Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Nursing Home Family Resource Line at 617-660-5399 is a dedicated phone line to connect family members and loved ones of nursing home, rest home, and assisted living residents with the information and resources they need. This phone line provides one central contact for families and community members who have questions about the care their loved one is receiving during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Nursing Home Family Resource Line is staffed Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Staff will field questions on a range of topics and coordinate across state agencies to help provide answers.

Visiting your loved one

We know that visitation is critically important to a long-term care resident’s emotional well-being and quality of life. The Department of Public Health has published guidance for nursing homes and rest homes as well as guidance for assisted living residences on how to support safe visitation, both outdoors and indoors. It’s important to talk to your loved one’s home before setting up a visit to better understand what to expect and how to make it a safe experience for everyone.

Currently, Massachusetts’ guidance allows for outdoor and indoor visitation in a designated space, with specific safety measures in place including masks, social distancing, and cleaning protocols. You will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and get your temperature checked before all visits. Visits in a resident’s room can only happen in compassionate circumstances such as end-of-life care and other circumstances explained in more detail in the guidance.

There are situations where an in-person visit with your loved one is not safe and cannot occur, including if there is a new COVID-19 case on your loved one’s floor or unit, your loved one is currently infected with COVID-19, or the facility is experiencing staffing shortages.

If you’re traveling from out of state to visit your loved one, be sure to check Massachusetts’ travel order to make sure you’re following the guidelines. You are exempt from these requirements if your travel is limited to a brief trip to visit a person in a long-term care or congregate care setting. For example, driving from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to visit a parent in a nursing home for 45 minutes, and then immediately returning home.

Holiday guidance

As we begin the holiday season, the Commonwealth is offering some considerations and recommendations on how to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones who reside in a long-term care setting. As you make plans to visit and celebrate with your loved one, we encourage you to reference this holiday guidance to ensure that all stay safe this holiday season.

Safely celebrating the holidays with your loved ones in long-term care or congregate settings. Low risk: do host a virtual celebration. Low-medium risk: possible, visit them at their residence. Very high risk: Don't, bring them into your home

Considerations for moving a loved one home

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, families may be considering whether their loved one should move from a nursing home, rest home or assisted living residence. The document “Considerations for Moving a Loved One Home from a Nursing Facility, Rest Home or Assisted Living Residence” includes steps to consider and a list of resources that are available to assist families in navigating this complex decision, as it is important to fully understand the care and other supports that your loved one may need.

Temporary admissions freeze

On November 6, the state announced that it would require certain high risk nursing homes and rest homes to temporarily stop all new admissions to protect the health and safety of residents and prevent further COVID-19 transmission.

Stopping admissions enables homes to focus resources such as staff and PPE on the health and safety of its current residents and enables the home to stabilize before taking on new residents. Homes that meet certain criteria will be required to stop any new admissions until the Department of Public Health has determined that conditions have improved and the facility is ready to safely care for new residents. The Commonwealth will work closely with homes during this time and provide supports as needed to ensure resident health and safety.

There are a number of reasons why a facility may be required to stop admissions, and the situation in each facility is different. Some of the factors the state uses to make this decision include:

  • Number of new COVID-19 cases within the facility
  • Staffing levels
  • Failure to report a lack of adequate PPE, supplies, or staff
  • Infection control survey results
  • Surveillance testing compliance

Facilities are required to notify residents’ designated family members and/or representative when the facility is subject to an admissions freeze. In addition, a list of facilities that are currently required to stop new admissions and the reason for this admissions freeze will be updated on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and as needed when the Department of Public of Health determines a facility can be removed from the list:

If you have further questions about why your loved one’s facility has been required to stop new admissions, please reach out directly to the facility or the Family Resource Line.

Infection control

The Department of Public Health performs regular, in-person infection control surveys to make sure nursing homes and rest homes are meeting infection control standards. They ask questions, observe staff and management activities, and make sure infection control and safety protocols are being followed. The results of these surveys are posted every week in the COVID-19 Weekly Public Health Report (pages 79-89), with information on whether or not a facility had a deficiency.

Deficiencies are assigned a letter based on the severity and scope of the issue identified during the survey; L is the most serious deficiency (very severe, affecting many/all residents). When a deficiency is identified during a survey, the facility must quickly submit a plan of correction to address the deficiency and are re-surveyed to make sure they have corrected the issue. DPH works with facilities and provides supports to properly address deficiencies when necessary. For more information on the infection control surveys and the deficiency levels, please see page 79 of the COVID-19 Weekly Public Health Report.

Nursing home consumer information

Information on long-term care options in Massachusetts, individual nursing homes and resident rights among other resources can be found on the Nursing Home Consumer Information webpage. This webpage includes:

  • The Nursing Home Survey Performance Tool, a state resource which includes DPH quality scores on an individual facility’s administration, nursing, resident rights, food services, and environmental categories
  • Nursing Home Compare, a federal resource from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) that contains detailed information about nursing homes nationwide, including their CMS five-star rating
  • Ombudsman Programs, which are advocacy programs available for or on behalf of residents at assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities and those in community care. The ombudsman service offers a way for older adults to voice their complaints and have concerns addressed so they can live with dignity and respect.

State supports for nursing homes to protect resident safety

The Commonwealth has taken strong steps to support the safety of residents in nursing homes throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, including, as of November:

  • Providing over 2.8 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Funding regular testing of all staff
  • Surveying and auditing facilities to make sure facilities are meeting infection control standards
  • Onsite visits in response to filed complaints and concerns for resident care and safety
  • Committing over $400 million in funding to nursing homes to support the health and safety of residents and staff

In September, the Commonwealth announced a package of long-term reforms to the industry to hold facilities to a higher standard of care and improved infection control. Read more about the policy here: Nursing Facility Accountability and Supports Package 2.0​  | Doc