Oregon senior living to allow limited indoor visits
Despite Oregon's upward trajectory of positive COVID-19 cases, the state's senior living facilities will allow limited indoor visits for seniors in assisted living facilities beginning Monday, Nov. 2.
The Oregon Department of Human Services issued a news release Oct. 27 that detailed a new policy allowing qualifying licensed nurses, assisted living and residential care facilities to permit residents up to two visitors at a time.
And Lake Oswego senior living facilities are looking forward to having residents see outside friends and family.
"We welcome the Department of Human Services' decision to allow indoor visitors in our communities, because we understand the need to balance the physical and emotional well-being of our residents," said Brenda Connelly, The Springs Living chief operating officer, in an email to the Review.
"As soon as DHS provides the final clarifications on the policy, we will start coordinating guest visits at The Springs at Carman Oaks and The Springs at Lake Oswego," she said.
Back in March, the state issued a policy to limit exposure of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities and did not allow nonessential visitors — including handymen, personal service providers who weren't required, friends and family — to enter facilities, though there were exceptions for reasons like end-of-life visits.
Essential visitors like clergy, food delivery and health care workers were screened before entering facilities.
"As we have throughout this pandemic, when it comes to long-term care facility visitation, we will proceed carefully to protect the residents who are most vulnerable to COVID-19," said Gov. Kate Brown in the news release. "With case counts rising, I have instructed the Department of Human Services to proceed with caution. However, it is my hope that families can now safely begin visiting the loved ones they have not been able to see for so many months."
In order for a facility to allow limited indoor visits, they must have no suspected or current COVID-19 cases, follow visitation requirements and guidance set forth in the policy, and be located in an area with a low or medium rate of COVID-19 exposure.
If the facility is located in an area where there is a high level of COVID-19 exposure, indoor visitors are only allowed for end-of-life circumstances.
Visitation precautions include staggered visits, cleaning and disinfecting areas after each visit, screening all visitors and designating a specific visiting area, among others.
"I think our residents, from a mental health standpoint, they have went too long without getting to see their families," said Pam Gray, chief operating officer for Bonaventure senior living, which has a facility in Lake Oswego. "I think it's been a long go for these poor seniors."
Gray said the Bonaventure facilities, including Oswego Place by Bonaventure, was allowing outdoor visitation prior to this policy change. Gray said it will be a similar system moving forward where families will need to make appointments to ensure visits are staggered and people can visit for 45 minutes at a time.
Similarly, Mary's Woods senior and assisted living facilities plan to have the same timeframe allotted to residents to allow time to disinfect spaces after people meet.
"We know this has been the hardest part for all of our residents — not just those in our health care areas," said Diane Hood, president and CEO of Mary's Woods. "We really believe this is critical."
Both facilities valued the outdoor visitation that was allowed in the warmer months, and Hood said they had people meet under tents, overhangs of buildings and behind plexiglass dividers if they needed to speak without a mask. Hood said they will continue to offer outdoor visitation if weather permits.
"We will start offering our limited indoor visitation early next week," Hood said. "We are aiming for Tuesday to have everything in place. We are finalizing the location."
Hood said there are a couple potential smaller spaces for folks to meet, and after accessing demand and making sure routine runs smoothly, there will be opportunity to expand.
Since all of the residential rooms are private at Oswego Place, people will meet in their rooms. All visitors will be screened and are required to wear personal protective equipment. And while staff will be adding a layer of protection and screening, Gray said it's worth it.
"They (seniors) definitely deserve to see their family," Gray said. "It's been a long year."
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