North Texas families waiting for updated reopening guidelines for long-term care facilities

Texas may be reopening next week, but for many families who haven't seen their loved ones, not much has changed.

Guidance for reopening nursing homes and long-term care facilities to visitors will come from state health authorities.

Families are still awaiting word from Texas Health and Human Services on what changes, if any, they might see at their facilities.

"Nobody had any idea we would be a year later and still fighting every day for this," said Stephanie Kirby, who has a son living in an assisted living facility.

This month marks one year since Kirby had her visitation rights to see her son, Petre, at the Denton State Supported Living Center severely limited because of COVID-19.

"One and a half hours, twice a week, but that’s not anything like I saw before, so in my heart, I just think maybe he thinks mom’s just moved on with her life and doesn’t have time for me anymore," she said.

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott said businesses can re-open full capacity next week.

But families, like Kirby’s, with loved ones at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, will still have to wait.

"He tweeted, ‘I just announced Texas is open 100% everything,’ were his words. That’s not accurate," she said. "100% of everything is not going to be open next week because unrestricted access for our loved ones is not."

Kirby said she feels families like hers have been left out of consideration, waiting on Texas Health and Human Services to update visitation guidelines as more people get vaccinated.

"So for us, not a single thing has changed since [Tuesday]. We’re in the same boat we were two days ago. We’re not open, we’re not 100%," she added.

The majority of the community at Belmont Village at Turtle Creek is vaccinated.

"99% of our residents are vaccinated. We have 90% of our staff vaccinated, and we have about 80 essential caregivers who have received full vaccinations," said Nancy Sanders, who is executive director for Belmont Village at Turtle Creek.

At Belmont Village, vaccinated caregivers are allowed to visit, provided they follow safety guidelines and wear PPE.

But even after state mask mandates lift next week, they’ll still require masks for everyone on property. 

"We have come this far, it has been a struggle to get this far, to be able to get our folks vaccinated. We don’t want to take any steps backward. We’ve made it this far, let’s keep things in place," Sanders added.

For now, facilities are awaiting new guidance from Texas Health and Human Services, and no new updates have been released so far.