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Defenders: Families shut out despite new visitation rules for nursing facilities

Many facilities are trying to formulate a plan to abide by the new rules, so very few are allowing families to visit in person yet.

WIMBERLEY, Texas — Starting Sept. 24, family members can be allowed to visit loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Those are the new orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued last week following months of stories by the KVUE Defenders.

But daily visits with Dad don't look much different yet for Kim Reed. She's still shut out.

“I’m discouraged and optimistic,” she said.

Reed’s been visiting her dad, Carl Reed, outside his window in Wimberley for months, pushing for face-to-face visits like so many. An announcement by Gov. Abbott on Sept. 17 seemed like the answer to their prayers.

The new rules require nursing homes to allow essential family members to visit. Assisted living facilities, like the one where Kim Reed's dad lives, get to decide.

"It is voluntary at certain levels if they can do this or not,” she said.

The new rules

Here are the rules any facility that allows essential family members to visit must follow:

  • They must limit visits to certain areas – outdoors or indoors with Plexiglas, window visits with open windows or in-person visits in the resident's room.
  • Family members must be tested for COVID-19 within 14 days of their first visit and the facility must keep a record of those tests.
  • They must wear proper PPE at all times.
  • Visits must be scheduled.
  • Only two family members can have the essential caregiver designation and only one family member can visit at a time for a maximum of two hours.
  • Family members must sign an agreement, agreeing to the rules.

Facilities must also have a plan in place to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks. That includes having an isolation area.

“This facility [where Carl Reed is staying] is still working on how they want to do this, so we've done nothing except just wait,” said Kim Reed. "I'm disappointed and encouraged at the same time because we're at least making some headway. This facility wants families to be involved, to visit. It is still working on how they want to do this." 

There is much to celebrate with the change, but like Kim Reed, many realize it could be weeks before they get to hug their loved ones.

Get answers

There are a couple of webinars taking place this week and next week where families can get answers to their questions.

One is being put on by State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Patty Ducayet this Friday, Sept. 25. You can register here.

The others are put on by the Texas Health and Human Services Department and there are several taking place in the next few weeks. Register here.


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