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Long-Term Care COVID-19 Family Information Center

Find the latest resources and information for families and loved ones of residents in nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living facilities.

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.

COVID-19 vaccine information

The Commonwealth has developed a vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes protecting the most vulnerable populations, including long-term care (nursing home, rest home, and assisted living) residents and staff. Vaccine distribution in MA is happening in a phased approach. Long-term care staff and residents are included in the first phase of distribution. Vaccination began on December 28, 2020 in nursing homes and January 11, 2020 in rest homes and assisted living residences. The program has an estimated timeframe of December to early March.

Nursing home, rest home and assisted living residents will be receiving their vaccinations through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program. Facilities that signed up for the program have been matched with a pharmacy (either CVS or Walgreens) who will provide free on-site vaccinations for the staff and residents. 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 vaccine’s safety, access, post-vaccine administration guidance, and others. Answers to these general questions can be found on the COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Information about the timeline of distribution and guidance surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations is updated regularly. Please be sure to check the Long Term Care Facility COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance webpage frequently to stay up to date on vaccine information for long-term care residents in MA.

Many families and friends of loved ones residing in long-term care communities have asked whether there will be changes to COVID-19 policies, in particular visitation, now that residents are fully vaccinated. We know that the past year has been extremely difficult for families, their loved ones and the staff that care for them. While we are entering a promising new phase, we must remain vigilant and continue to follow public health recommendations that can reduce the spread and impact of the virus. For additional information on what will change in long-term care facilities after residents are vaccinated, please see COVID-19 Prevention Protocols Post-Vaccination.

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. 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 (weather permitting) and indoor visitation, 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. 

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 in your loved one's unit, floor, or care area, 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 Advisory 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, a family member driving from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to visit a parent in a nursing home for 45 minutes, and then immediately returning home.

Safely celebrating upcoming spring holidays in LTC facilities

With the “spring holidays” upon us, EOHHS encourages facilities, families, residents and staff to engage in low-risk celebrations to mitigate risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 to those in the community, fellow residents and staff.

Families are encouraged to communicate with the facility or residence before making plans to bring their loved one home to understand their policies and make sure their celebration is as safe as possible. This includes limiting interaction to the fewest number of people and households as possible while the resident is on their planned leave.

  • Residents who are fully vaccinated and their loved ones should continue to follow all the current guidance to protect each other from the spread of COVID-19. This includes wearing a face covering or facemask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and cleaning hands often.
  • Residents who are not fully vaccinated must adhere to quarantine requirements upon return from leave; residents who have recovered within the last six months and those that are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine upon return.

Some facilities may choose to offer religious services on facility grounds. Facilities planning to do so must adhere to COVID-19 safety standards and protocols in alignment with current state guidance. Additional considerations include:

  • Consider holding services outdoors
  • In alignment with guidance for places of worship, consider modifying communal rituals, like taking communion or passing of the peace, to limit contact with others. Consider distributing, where applicable, prepackaged communion or sacraments
  • Utilize BinaxNOW tests for clergy upon entry
  • Maintain physical distancing requirements during the services and awareness of capacity constrictions

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 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 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 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. 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, 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.wylie@mass.gov
    • EOHHS Ombudsperson: Assists constituents with issues related to EOHHS agencies | Marylouise Gamache, Marylouise.gamache@mass.gov

State supports for nursing homes to protect resident safety

The Commonwealth has taken strong 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

 

Additional resources

COVID-19 Stimulus Check Rights Advisory Notice:

The Attorney General’s Office issued an advisory notice to inform families and residents of long-term care facilities (nursing homes, assisted living residences, and rest homes) of their rights to the COVID-19 stimulus payments made under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.

Earlier this year, the Attorney General’s Office received reports of some long-term care facilities taking COVID-19 stimulus payments made to their residents under the CARES Act. This advisory is to inform residents and families that under federal tax law, long-term care residents are entitled to receive the full value of their stimulus payments. In other words, facilities cannot require residents to deposit their checks into their facility’s account, increase the resident’s monthly payment (often called “patient pay amount” or “share of cost”) or disperse their checks in increments.

If you have any concerns, please contact the Medicaid Fraud Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 617-963-2360. To report a complaint about a nursing facility, please contact the Department of Public Health’s Complain Line at (800) 462-5540

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