Families eager to visit loved ones as new Texas nursing home guidelines begin

New guidelines for visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Texas took effect Thursday.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced residents will be allowed up to two essential caregivers to be allowed inside facilities after testing negative for COVID-19 and following other safety procedures.

With the new guidelines in place, there are a number of requirements family members need to meet in order to be allowed visits. It will still be some time before some can start scheduling visits.

But for those who’ve been waiting months to see each other, it’s well worth it.

Genny Lutzel is willing to do whatever it takes to safely see her 80-year-old mother who’s currently living with Alzheimer’s in an assisted living facility.

“I’ll jump through every hoop they throw at me,” she said. “If they want to wrap me up in saran wrap, I’ll do that.”

Regular in-person visits for nursing homes and long-term care facilities came to a halt under the governor’s orders in March.

Although Lutzel has seen her mother through a window and on video, it hasn’t been the same.

“By no stretch of the imagination are these visits. These are connections. I feel like if I didn’t do that, I would lose my connection with her,” she said.

Visitations slowly opened up with strict guidelines in August under very limited circumstances, but no physical contact was allowed.

Under the new guidelines, that will change.

“You are able to touch your family member. That is huge,” Lutzel said. “Of everything we’ve gone through, not being able to deliver that hug and that kiss goodbye has been by far the worst of all this.”

But family members who hope to be designated as essential caregivers will need to meet several guidelines, including testing negative for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, going through safety training and wearing proper protective gear.

The Texas Long Term Care Ombudsman Program has been hosting sessions to help families understand the new rules and what’s required to visit loved ones.

“There’s going to be a process of understanding what these rules allow and what they require of facilities,” explained Patty Ducayet, with the program. “Even those that are approved, we do know they’re going to need to figure out what these rules mean for them, what changes they need to make to their policies and procedures.”

But even though Lutzel and others may have to wait a little longer as facilities sort through the new guidelines and train their staff, families say they now have hope they’ll see each other soon after being kept apart for so long.

“I will give my mom a hug,” she said. “I’ll give her a hug.”

Ombudsman Program Info

The Texas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and Texas Health and Human Services are hosting webinars to help families walk through the process of meeting all the requirements in order to schedule a visit with their family member.

Webinar hosted by Texas Long-Term Care Ombudsman: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7268075734635918603?fbclid=IwAR0pprjJGv3ekWWE2eB777_Z5RiyV6_g6RefxZ2HJK6jj9s1iXV4fyWLKcc

Webinars hosted by Texas Health & Human Services:

For residents in nursing homes: https://hhs.texas.gov/about-hhs/communications-events/news/2020/09/overview-covid-19-nf-visitation-rules-webinar

For residents in assisted living facilities: https://hhs.texas.gov/about-hhs/communications-events/news/2020/09/overview-covid-19-alf-visitation-rules-webinar