Relaxed regulations have calming effect on Cy-Fair area nursing homes

After a heart-breaking five months of isolation, seniors in area nursing homes and assisted living…

Relaxed regulations have calming effect on Cy-Fair area nursing homes

After a heart-breaking five months of isolation, seniors in area nursing homes and assisted living centers have some new options for seeing their loved ones.

At a press conference on Sept. 17, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new visitation guidance for eligible nursing homes, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, home and community-based service providers, and inpatient hospice effective Thursday, Sept. 24.

“I certainly applaud Gov. Abbott and the HHSC (Health and Human Services Commission) on working to reduce and relieve some of the restrictions with visitation,” said Derek Prince, CEO HMG Healthcare who manages Park Manor of CyFair.

“We value the psycho and social well-being and family relationships,” he said. “It’s been extremely trying for our patient population and our families. We’re excited to be able to put this stuff together,” he said.

With the relief comes a bit of grief as well.

“They are also burdensome and duplicitous from the guidance we received from CMS (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services). It’s somewhat confusing at times,” he said.

“Slowly but surely we’re getting our arms around it and hopefully making a difference” the CEO said.

Prince described the visits under two categories: a regular visitor policy and an essential care worker designation.

Under the regular visitor policy, they are based on county positivity rates whether they are designated as indoor or outdoor visits. They can consist of outdoor no contact visits, open window visits, or indoor visitation with the use of plexiglass safety barriers, all attempts at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. There can be no physical contact between residents and visitors.

“Those can be scheduled by any loved one on our website with the Schedule A Visit button at an appropriate time,” he said.

The visits are allowed seven days a week and they allow for cleaning between each visit.

The potential is there for those visits to be taken away in the event of a breakout with patients or even staff.

The second category is an essential care worker designation. A resident or responsible party can designate two essential caregivers for each resident. They’re not required to adhere to social distancing. There can be contact and touch and can be in a patient’s room. Staff and other residents are still required to socially distance with the visitors.

“On the front end we have to provide training for all of the essential caregivers on facility policies and procedures regarding infection control, PPE, and hand hygiene. They still have to go through testing protocols to make sure they are safe,” Prince said.

Only one caregiver can visit a resident at a time. Some facilities place a time requirement on that from 30 minutes to an hour. Proper PPE must be used at all times during these scheduled visits, and the caregiver must test negative for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days before the initial visit.

To enter the facility, all guests must submit to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) screening process.

Having the two different systems can be burdensome on the staff, but Prince said they would make it work.

Prince said they have maintained communication with the family members through letters and electronic mail.

“The response that we’ve received from our family members to this point has been positive. They are extremely compliant and following the rules. They don’t want to do anything that’s going to put themselves or loved one in harm,” he said.

While family members can bring in food for the patient, they are not allowed to eat with them during their visits. They’ve still been able to bring in puzzles, cards, and care necessities, but few other things.

“Each of our facilities are in different stages of opening up,” the CEO said.

None of their facilities have done the essential care indoor visits because training just wrapped up, but he expects it to happen in the coming days.

Prince was proud of his staff who has had to step up over and over again to make sure their most at-risk population is safe.

At Cypress Pointe Health and Wellness, Lee Rivaz, administrator and vice president of operations, said the experience has been emotional.

The very first day they began the outdoor visits was special.

“It was unbelievable to see their faces. It was so heartwarming to see the interaction with their family members,” he said.

They began Phase I outdoor visitation in the beginning of September.