According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults, 65 years and older, are at a higher risk of severe illness resulting from COVID-19. Therefore, it is important for home health agencies to take important measures to prevent their patients from contracting or spreading the virus.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released guidelines for home health agencies (HHAs) regarding infection control and prevention for COVID-19.
Important steps HHAs can take include:
Monitoring individuals’ health status: HHAs should monitor the health of home care providers, patients, visitors and staff for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
- Identifying patients who are at risk of having COVID-19
HHAs should ask patients about risk factors relating to the illness, such as international travel, symptoms of infection or contact with people who have or may have COVID-19. This should be completed before or upon arrival at patient homes.
- Restricting home care providers’ visits to patient homes if they exhibit symptoms of respiratory illness
Any health care providers or other staff that begin exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness should not report to work or immediately stop work if symptoms develop while on the job. They must also inform management of persons they came into contact with or equipment they used.
- Participating in preventative measures
Patients should only leave their home for medical care. Home care providers should minimize contact with other individuals and animals within the home. Wearing face masks outside the patient room, covering coughs and sneezes, hand-washing, monitoring for symptoms and regularly cleaning “high-touch” surfaces are all effective preventative measures.
- Closely monitoring the condition of patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19
Mild symptoms may be treated at home and may not require the patient to be hospitalized. As long as the HHA can follow the CDC’s suggested prevention and control practices, the patient may remain at home. If patients develop severe symptoms and require more intense care, hospitalization may be necessary.
These are only some of CMS’ guidelines for home care agencies concerning COVID-19 and patient care. The official document can be found here: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-18-hha.pdf.