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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