Nursing Home Family Resource Line
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 can respond to questions on a range of topics and coordinate across state agencies to help provide answers.
COVID-19 vaccine information
The Commonwealth has prioritized protecting the most vulnerable populations, including long-term care (nursing home, rest home, and assisted living) residents and staff. Vaccinating long-term care facility residents, staff, and visitors against COVID-19 is a crucial step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Long-term care facilities in partnership with their contracted pharmacies will be able to provide their residents with necessary doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department of Public Health has compiled guidance and information about COVID-19 vaccination specific to long-term care facilities, along with answers to frequently asked questions.
We understand there are many general questions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety, plan for equitable access, post-vaccine administration guidance, and other health and safety question. Answers to these general questions and more can be found on the COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions webpage.
Families with questions regarding how their loved one will receive their first and/or second dose as well as a booster dose should reach out to their loved one’s facility.
For additional questions about the care your loved one is receiving, please call the Nursing Home Family Resource Line at 617-660-5399. The Nursing Home Family Resource Line is staffed Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Staff will field questions on a range of topics and coordinate across state agencies to help provide answers.
Additional resources and information for families and loved ones of residents in nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living facilities can be found on the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Family Information Center.
Where can I get more information?
Visit these frequently updated web pages on COVID-19 vaccination:
- COVID-19 Vaccine in Massachusetts | DPH
- Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine | CDC
- Trust the Facts, Get the Vax
- How COVID-19 Vaccines Work | CDC
- Myths and Misconceptions about COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC
- Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination | CDC
- COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit for Health Systems and Clinics | CDC
- COVID-19 Vaccine: FAQs & Distribution Information | Walgreens
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, rest homes and assisted living residences on how to support safe visitation, both outdoors and indoors. If you have questions then please talk to your loved one’s home before visiting to better understand what to expect and how to make it a safe experience for everyone.
Currently, Massachusetts’ guidance encourages outdoor (weather permitting) and indoor visitation, with specific safety measures in place including residents and visitors wearing masks and social distancing, and facilities following cleaning protocols. You will be assessed for COVID-19 symptoms and potential exposure before all visits. Facilities may offer and perform a rapid COVID-19 test on visitors using BinaxNOW tests, if feasible. However, a facility shall not condition a visit on testing.
There are temporary 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 in your loved one's unit, floor, or care area or your loved one is currently infected with COVID-19. Please ask your loved one’s facility if you can use FaceTime or other video calling options during this time to keep in touch.
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, 2020, 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 non-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 Friday 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.
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.
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 all residents). When a deficiency is identified during a survey, the facility must promptly 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.
Nursing home consumer information
Information on long-term care options in Massachusetts, individual nursing homes, resident rights and 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, staffing, 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 quality rating
- Ombudsman Programs - 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 and their loved ones to voice their complaints and have concerns addressed so they can live with dignity and respect. See below for specific ombudsman types and contact information:
- Long-term care Ombudsperson: advocates for residents of skilled nursing facilities and rest homes | Carolyn Fenn, Carolyn.Fenn@mass.gov
- Assisted Living Ombudsperson: advocates for residents of assisted living residences | Donna Bucca, Donna.Bucca@mass.gov
- Elder Affairs Community Care Ombudsperson: assists older adults with issues related to community- based resources (home care, chore services, housing search support, health insurance guidance and care giver support) | Karyn Wylie, Karyn.email@example.com
- EOHHS Ombudsperson: Assists constituents with issues related to EOHHS agencies | Marylouise Gamache, Marylouise.firstname.lastname@example.org
State supports for nursing homes to protect resident safety
The Commonwealth has taken significant steps to support the safety of residents and staff 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 promote a higher standard of care and improved infection control. Read more about the policy here: Nursing Facility Accountability and Supports Package 2.0 | Word Doc