CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In addition to increasing the capacity of restaurants and retailers in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to expand visitation options for several types of senior-living facilities.
Those expansions, which go into effect Sept. 24, will allow residents to designate up to two essential family caregivers.
Those caregivers can be a family member, friend or other individual, the HHSC said in a news release.
“Facilities are required to train essential caregivers on the proper use of personal protective equipment and other infection control measures,” the release stated. “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 before the initial visit.”
Solstice Senior Living Executive Director Michelle Kelm said she has been anticipating an announcement like this for months.
“We put a lot of thought preparation and care into being ready for this day,” she said. “We have a digital thermometer that will take temperature of anybody coming into the building, we have electrostatic cleaners that we are using throughout the building a couple times a day along with our regular cleaning processes that have always been in place for our residents.”
Although the Corpus Christi facility has been proactive in finding COVID-19-safe practices to help its residents socialize with family, including implementing a hugging booth back in August, Kelm said this will be a gamechanger for senior communities.
“It’s definitely a good thing for them — both mentally and physically,” she said. “To have that socialization aspect and to have their loved ones back in their lives.”
Since restrictions began, Solstice, like other senior-living facilities, have only been allowing essential workers into their facilities.
Kelm said the facility's current policy for residents who want to visit with their families is for the visits to be outside, with mask-wearing and a separation of 6 feet.
For residents such as 82-year-old Carol Didier, who has been living at Solstice for almost five years, being alone has been difficult. She hasn't been able to see many of her friends.
"I have really missed them," she said. "I speak to them on the phone, but it’s not the same — it’s just not the same."
While she is excited, Didier knows that the Coastal Bend isn't in the clear.
"I’m kind of excited about it, but I think we’re still going to take precautions," she said. "You know we don’t want to just go off the deep end with this."
As far as the visitations, Kelm said that Solstice is ready for the company.
“I think that we’ve put so much thought and effort into it with our precautions, that I think we are as prepared as we can be and honestly that’s all we can do at this point,” she said.