Updated: November 24, 2021 – 

Thank you to everyone who contacted the New Jersey Department of Health and the Commissioner to request that New Jersey’s long-term care visitation guidelines be updated to follow the November 12 recommendations issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

On November 24, the NJ Commissioner of Heath issued Executive Directive No. 21-0121 stating that Assisted Living Facilities, Comprehensive Personal Care Homes, Dementia Care Homes and Residential Care Facilities are to follow the CMS guidance stating that visitation must be allowed for all residents at all times. Facilities are required to return to pre-pandemic visitation hours.

“In issuing this updated Executive Directive, we appreciate Commissioner Persichilli’s recognition of the many concerns expressed by families who have endured the physical and emotional impact of visitation limitations for the past 20 months,” said Ken Zaentz, Alzheimer’s New Jersey president and CEO. “We now ask that the NJ Department of Health monitor the required implementation of these guidelines so that families and their loved ones can fully benefit from unimpeded visitation within the scope of this directive”

While Executive Directive No. 21-0121 also includes procedures for screening and for obtaining written informed consent from every visitor, visitors are not required to be tested or vaccinated as a condition of visitation.

Please click here to see the full text of the November 24 Executive Directive.

Updated CMS Guidelines

Updated: November 15, 2021

On November 12, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released revised guidelines for nursing home visitation. Essentially, the new guidelines allow visitation for all residents at all times.

“The revised CMS visitation guidelines represent the most significant change in visitation since the start of the COVID-19 health crisis and recognize what families have been saying for so long about the physical and emotional toll that visitation limits have had on their loved ones,” said Ken Zaentz, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s New Jersey.

According to CMS, “residents living with cognitive and other ongoing changes related to impairment or other disability may find visitor restrictions and other ongoing changes related to COVID-19 confusing or upsetting. CMS understands that nursing home residents derive value from the physical, emotional and spiritual support they receive through visitation from family and friends.” While the new guidelines acknowledge that there is still a concern related to visitation and the COVID-19 infection rate, “adherence to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention mitigate these concerns.” In addition, according to these latest guidelines from CMS, “facilities may ask about a visitors’ vaccination status, however, visitors are not required to be tested or vaccinated (or show proof of such) as a condition of visitation.”

Alzheimer’s New Jersey now asks the Commissioner and the New Jersey Department of Heath to immediately update the Executive Directive on Visitation Protocols and the Mandatory Guidelines for Visitors and Facility Staff to reflect the new CMS guidelines in a manner that can be fully implemented with consistency and oversight. Families have waited far too long for unimpeded visitation with their loved ones in our long-term care residences.

The New Jersey Department of Health needs to hear from you in support of these updated guidelines. Please click here for a sample email that you can send.

Updated: May 12, 2021

The New Jersey Department of Health has issued another supplement to the mandatory guidelines for visitation in long-term care residences. The supplemental guidance was released on May 12 and is included as an update to the following document:  Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities Summary of Current Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions.

Updated: March 29, 2021

The New Jersey Department of Health has released updated mandatory guidelines for visitation in long-term care residences. New Jersey’s new guidelines follow the federal guidelines that were released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on March 10. New Jersey’s new guidelines take effect immediately and apply to all residential healthcare facilities including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences, comprehensive personal care homes, residential care homes and dementia care homes.

Alzheimer’s New Jersey appreciates the work of the Governor and the New Jersey Department of Health in taking this important first step to make significant and vitally needed change for thousands of New Jersey families with loved ones in our long-term care residences. In addition, we want to recognize the many advocates, including members of FACE for Seniors, who sent letters and emails, made phone calls and raised awareness through public events to bring attention to the physical and emotional health consequences caused by the isolation of their loved ones.

While long awaited family reunions may now seem possible, we urge the Department of Health and healthcare administrators to work together with families to turn the promise of these new guidelines into positive action that enables in-door family visits to take place and recognizes that families are essential to quality care in our long-term care facilities, especially for those residents with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

First Published: March 11, 2021

Alzheimer’s New Jersey would like to acknowledge and thank the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for issuing new visitation guidelines for expanding indoor visitation in nursing homes that recognizes that physical separation from family and other loved ones has taken a physical and emotional toll on residents and their families.

According to Ken Zaentz, President and CEO of Alzheimer’s New Jersey, “these new guidelines are a significant change to the current New Jersey Department of Health Executive Directive NO. 20-0261 that includes visitation requirements in residential care facilities and we urge the New Jersey DOH to quickly update its guidelines and implement the CMS recommendations.  Families, especially those who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, have waited far too long to resume their essential caregiver roles as part of the team providing quality care in our long-term care facilities.”

The new CMS recommendations were published on March 10, 2021 and take effect immediately.

In short, CMS recommends that facilities allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise that would limit visitation for (a) unvaccinated residents only based on the COVID-19 county positivity rate and the percent of residents that are fully vaccinated, (b) residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions or (c) residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

The updated guidelines also state that while outbreaks do increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission, a facility should not restrict visitation for all residents as long as there is evidence that the transmission of COVID-19 is contained to a single area of the facility. 

In addition, Compassionate Care visitation should always be allowed for any resident, vaccinated or unvaccinated regardless of a facilities current outbreak status.  While visitor testing and vaccination can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, visitors should not be required to be tested or vaccinated or show proof of either as a condition of visitation.

Alzheimer’s New Jersey, supports CMS in acknowledging that “there is no substitute for physical contact, such as the warm embrace between a resident and their loved one.”

Here is a link to the full CMS Fact Sheet on the new guidelines.