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Aging Services Guidance —Consumer Contact and Return to In-Home Visits

Pennsylvania's pandemic disaster declaration was terminated by the General Assembly on June 10, 2021. The suspension of any regulations associated with the declaration will remain in effect until September 30, 2021.  As of October 1, 2021, all regulatory suspensions will expire, and all Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) must resume full operational status.

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 .

Effective October 1, 2021, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are to fully resume face-to-face consumer contacts and in-home visits according to program policy for all Aging Programs.

Seeing a consumer in their home environment allows the Care Manager to adequately assess living conditions, observe functional abilities and determine the need for services. This document provides guidance and recommendations to AAAs for resuming face-to-face consumer contacts and in-home visits.

Returning to Face-to-Face Contacts

In returning to face-to-face contacts and in-home visits, Care Managers may not know or be able to ensure consumers and other individuals present in the home are vaccinated. A Care Manager may neither request proof of vaccination, nor deny services to individuals who are not vaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status. However, Care Managers may ask for the voluntary disclosure of vaccination status.  Care Managers shall make the consumer aware this information is voluntary and will not impact the consumer's ability to receive services.

When resuming face-to-face contacts and in-home visits, 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
      • Care Managers, consumers, and other individuals in the home to wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status
      • Practice social distancing within the consumer's home,
      • Utilize health and comfort screenings* of consumers and others before visiting the home

*NOTE:  AAAs/Care Managers are no longer required to utilize PDA's screening forms or attach screening forms in SAMS

Continuance of Hybrid Version of Assessment Process

To minimize the time spent in the consumer's home for health and safety reasons, AAAs may continue to use a hybrid version of the assessment process. The Care Manager may begin the assessment with the consumer via telephone and finish the assessment in the home environment. At a minimum, the following sections shall be completed with the consumer during the home visit:

      • NAT-E – Section 6: Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) through Section 11: Emergency Planning
      • NAT – Section 3: Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS), Section 10: Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) through Section 19: Individual/Spouse/Household Financial Data
      • CAT – Section 6: Caregiver's Assistance, Section 7: Caregiver's Well-Being, Section 8: Care Manager Observations and Assessment Outcome

Monitoring COVID-19 Positivity Rates

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 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 Care Managers to continue to exercise some preventative measures.

For questions or technical assistance regarding this guidance, please email the Bureau of Aging Services at RA-PaAgingServices@pa.gov