Some Nursing Home Residents to Reunite With Loved Ones

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services updated their guidelines for nursing home visitation including outdoor visits and clarified definitions of compassionate care for indoor visits during COVID-19.

Published September 21, 2020

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued updated guidance about nursing home visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitation had been largely restricted for several months due to a number of nursing homes becoming virus hot spots and because of the increased vulnerability of senior citizens developing symptoms from the disease. 

“While we must remain steadfast in our fight to shield nursing home residents from this virus, it is becoming clear that prolonged isolation and separation from family is also taking a deadly toll on our aging loved ones.” - CMS Administrator Seema Verma1

With increased availability of data to guide policy development, CMS has encouraged nursing homes to facilitate outdoor visitation to allow residents to visit with their loved ones in a way that reduces the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. 

Medicare approves indoor nursing home visits for the first time since pandemic began

Medicare announced nursing homes may also permit indoor visits if no new cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the facility in the last 14 days. Facilities may be subject to additional requirements for indoor visitation. 

The re-opening of nursing homes for indoor visitation prioritizes those residents experiencing “compassionate care,” which can include:

  • End of life care
  • Residents who are struggling with the change in environment and lack of physical family support after previously living with family members
  • Residents who are grieving following the loss of a family member or friend
  • Residents who are experiencing weight loss or dehydration and were previously being assisted by family members for eating and drinking
  • Residents who are experiencing emotional distress, are seldom speaking and crying frequently

The extended separation of nursing home residents and their family members has taken a significant toll.

“We believe nursing homes should be able to resume visitations reuniting residents with their families within the recommendations outlined in our guidance,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.1

In March, the CMS restricted nursing home visitation to only residents receiving compassionate care services. In May, the organization released reopening recommendations that outlined the various phases of safely reopening. 

Learn more about Medicare news and how the COVID-19 pandemic affects beneficiaries.


1 CMS. (Sep. 17, 2020). CMS Announces New Guidance for Safe Visitation in Nursing Homes During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency [press release]. Retrieved from


About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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