Tears of joy: Nursing homes reinstate in-person visitation

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Golden Rule Home resident.

After a year of limited visitation from family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many area nursing home residents are now able to see loved ones again in person, prompting many "tears of joy" during these reunions, administrators say.

Among those now able to see visitors are the residents of the Golden Rule Home in Shawnee.

According to Administrator Jessica Mitchell, she changed the facility's visitation policy now that most residents and staff are fully vaccinated.

"I have updated our policy to address different scenarios —  indoor visits, outside visits, compassionate care visits and reasons we would need to limit visitations, off campus visitation and visitations during an outbreak," Mitchell said.

She explained this new policy has been enacted for the last month. So far, she said, families have been extremely supportive of the process the facility has had in place for visitation and several different families have come for visits.

"It’s such a wonderful breath of fresh air having families somewhat back in the facility," Mitchell said.

She said Golden Rule now has specified rooms set up for indoor visits and an area outside which is the preferred route and use depending on the weather.

Families can visit residents as much as they want, Mitchell said.

She explained indoor visits are limited to two people to allow for social distancing, but there is no limit outside as long as people can maintain social distancing.

"Residents can choose touch visits but should continue to wear face masks," Mitchell said.

Family members need to call a head of time to set up a visit so Golden Rule can ensure the room and outside area are disinfected between visits.

The administrator said both families and residents are happy to be able to see one another.

In addition to Golden Rule, The Regency Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Shawnee now allows families to visit residents in-person.

Administrator JR Gutierrez said he has enjoyed seeing residents and their family members reunite.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the home has followed guidance from local, state, and federal health officials," Gutierrez said. "When homes were closed to visitors, it was hard on residents and their families, but also for the team members who provide care."

He explained The Regency staff did their best to stand in for residents' family members, but he knew they could not take the place of the residents' loved ones.

"So, it is wonderful to once again be able to welcome visitors and to see our residents with their loved ones again," Gutierrez said. "There is nothing like getting a hug from someone you love, and there have been a lot of tears of joy in our facility lately as we have witnessed these incredible reunions.”

The administrator said The Regency does request that family members work with the facility and follow necessary precautions, such as health screenings at the door and wearing masks to ensure the continued safety of residents against COVID-19.