Nursing home activity directors could use the upcoming presidential election to engage residents about voting this year, says the nation’s largest nursing home association. 

Voting has taken on a new level of scrutiny and complexity this year, due to unprecedented conditions and restrictions caused by the pandemic.

“First and foremost, make sure any activities surrounding voting do not pressure residents with regard to their voting choices or preferences,” the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living wrote in a blog post Tuesday. The post highlighted tips for providers on how to help residents vote this year.

“As stated in [federal] regulation(s), providers should help make sure residents are able to exercise their right to vote but should avoid any appearance of interference or coercion,” the organization noted. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reminded providers last week in a memo that they must make sure residents can exercise their right to vote during the upcoming election. AHCA/NCAL said the first step in ensuring this is to make sure individuals are properly registered. 

Additionally, the pandemic also means many residents may prefer voting by mail-in or absentee ballots; facilities should pay close attention to their state requirements regarding both methods. 

The sooner the better

“Send in completed ballots as soon as possible, whether by mail or at local ballot drop boxes, if your state or county offers them,” AHCA/NCAL stressed. 

“Many states also offer voters the ability to track their ballot online. Work with the resident or their loved one, if they wish to make sure their ballot was received and qualified to be counted. Sending in ballots quickly may help a resident address any issues flagged with their ballot promptly, to ensure it will be counted,” the organization explained. 

The association also stressed having a good line of communication among residents and family members if a resident does want to go to a polling place on Election Day. It added that family members could help residents fill out and check the progress of their ballots. 

“As we’ve seen through the pandemic, constant communication with residents’ family members, friends and legal representatives is pivotal. Keep loved ones aware of how you’re helping residents exercise their right to vote and see how they can help partner with you in this effort,” the blog post stated. 

“If a family member wants to take their loved one to the polls on Election Day, make sure they are informed on how best to limit exposure and what precautions will be in place when the resident returns,” it added.