CMS Reminds Nursing Homes about Resident Communication Assistance

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revised its April 24, 2020 QSO guidance on July 9, 2020 to remind nursing home providers of their obligation to providing residents with access to the long-term care ombudsman and facilitating communication with residents and their family/friends that complies with federal disability rights laws. Specifically:

  • Facilities are required to provide representatives of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman with immediate access to any resident. Recognizing that this is a public health emergency and that in-person access may not be permitted, CMS states that facilities still must facilitate communication between residents and the LTC Ombudsman through other available means of communication. CMS further clarified that the CARES Act also ensures the Ombudsman has continued direct access to residents throughout the duration of the public health emergency (PHE).
  • CMS updated the FAQ included with this QSO Memo related to a nursing home’s responsibility to help residents communicate with their family, loved ones and friends to specifically remind facilities that they are responsible for complying with federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that if a resident requires assistance to communicate effectively and this assistance is not available by onsite staff or effective communication cannot be provided without such assistance, the facility must allow the individual entry into the nursing home to interpret or facilitate – with some exceptions. Facilities should still impose safety requirements that are necessary for safe operations, including actions such as screening the individual for symptoms of COVID-19 and requiring the person to wear PPE.

Read the revised QSO Memo, “Nursing Home Five Star Quality Rating System updates, Nursing Home Staff Counts, Frequently Asked Questions and Access to Ombudsman (REVISED) (Ref: QSO-20-28-NH) for more information. 

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