Protective Services – Revised Guidance
Return to Face-to-Face Visits and In-Person Investigations
Pennsylvania's pandemic disaster declaration was terminated by the General Assembly on June 10, 2021. However, the suspension of any protective services regulations associated with the declaration will continue until September 30, 2021 per Act No. 21 of 2021.
With vaccination rates on the rise, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the PA Department of Health (DOH) recently announced the lifting of some COVID-19 mitigation strategies. In the interest of keeping older adults and staff safe, the PA Department of Aging (PDA) continues to emphasize the importance of following recommendations for mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus per CDC and DOH. This document provides guidance and recommendations to Protective Services staff within the AAAs regarding resuming face-to-face contacts, visits, and investigations.
Effective October 1, 2021, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are to fully resume face-to-face consumer contacts, visits, and investigations in accordance with the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) and related regulations. However, if a AAA can resume full compliance with regulations prior to the October 1, 2021 deadline, it may do so.
Resuming Face-to-Face Contacts, Visits, and Protective Services Investigations
On October 1, 2021, AAAs will resume regulatory required face-to-face consumer contacts, visits, and investigations. Observing an older adult in their home environment allows the Protective Services (PS) Caseworker to assess living conditions, determine functional abilities, and evaluate the need for protective services most effectively.
When resuming face-to-face contact, PDA strongly recommends the following:
- Review and update COVID-related policies and procedures
- Create and/or maintain a communication plan to inform staff and consumers of any necessary operational changes related to COVID-19
- Caseworkers, older adults, and other individuals in the home to wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status
- Practice social distancing while in the older adult's home
- Utilize health screenings* of consumers and others before visiting the home
Consumer Vaccination Status
In returning to face-to-face contact, Protective Services (PS) Caseworkers may not know or be able to ensure that older adults and other individuals present in the home are vaccinated. A PS Caseworker may neither request proof of vaccination, nor deny services to older adults who are not vaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status. However, PS Caseworkers may ask for the voluntary disclosure of vaccination status. PS Caseworkers shall make the older adult aware that the provision of this information is voluntary and will not impact the older adult's ability to receive services.
PDA recommends that AAAs monitor their local COVID-19 positivity rate as well as the percentage of individuals vaccinated when making decisions affecting their operating policies and procedures. Until vaccination rates further increase, and more is known about the length of vaccination protection and effectiveness of the vaccines against emerging variants, it may be necessary for AAAs and Caseworkers to continue to exercise some preventative measures.
*NOTE: AAAs/Caseworkers are no longer required to utilize PDA's screening forms or attach screening forms in SAMS.
For questions or technical assistance regarding this guidance, please email protective services at PDA.email@example.com .