Senior living facilities prepare to allow in-person visits with residents

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Many senior living communities are preparing to once again welcome in-person visits after the governor announced it will be allowed at certain facilities. While it is exciting to bring back guests, senior living communities said it comes with a lot of planning to keep everyone safe.

“We were happy to see that we were going to finally be able to allow visitors to visit our residents. We realize that it has been a strain on both the family members as well as the residents in not being able to see each other in the normal fashion. However, with that comes the next level of how are we going to continue to keep our residents safe and healthy,” Renee Gurule, Marketing Director at Haven Care Assisted Living for Alzheimer’s And Dementia, said. She said the facility is still working out the details of how they’ll safely allow visits again but is currently buying PPE for both residents and visitors.

The Suites Rio Vista in Rio Rancho said it started getting messages from families of residents asking when they could visit within 30 minutes of the governor’s announcement. “We’re all nervous but excited about it. As long as we protect the residents, this is going to be a great thing for everybody,” Rayna Fagus, Administrator at The Suites Rio Vista, said.

To comply with the state’s guidelines around these visits, The Suites plans on having a resident and guest sit outside on opposite sides of dining tables during the visit so they are 10 feet apart. It also plans to have plexiglass dividers. Along with taking a pledge to practice COVID-safe behaviors while visiting, guests will be screened with questions and temperature checks. The facility said making sure all visitors are healthy may be the biggest challenge.

“We don’t know where they’ve been. We don’t know if they’re telling the truth when we screen them,” Fagus said. “They have to understand that we have to follow these rules that the MAT team, the governor’s group, long-term care, and aging set up for us for the safety of their loved ones.”

The Suites Rio Vista also plans for visits to be 45 minutes and for only one guest to be allowed to sit with a resident at a time. “We will make way for everyone to see their loved ones but they have to be patient because the safety of our loved ones will always come first,” Fagus said.

MorningStar Assisted Living and Memory Care of Albuquerque sent a statement on its response to the governor’s announcement. It reads in part:

“MorningStar is thrilled to learn of Governor Grisham’s recent decision to open senior care communities to family visitations.  As we have done throughout the pandemic, MorningStar’s three New Mexico communities (Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe) will fully comply with the parameters (once shared in print), but will eagerly schedule family visits as soon as they are permitted.  Other states in which we operate have already reestablished this freedom, so we are practiced in the attending protocols, among them:  online scheduling tool to ease the process for families and for our team, staggered schedules to enable our supervision of short visits, designated outdoor venues, and the “triple crown” of behavior (masks, hand hygiene and six-foot distance).We welcome this long-awaited day, knowing the healing power of nearness to those we love.

In-person visits at senior living communities can only happen in counties where COVID-19 cases are low and at facilities that do not have any active cases. Visitations can start Monday, but many facilities are starting later in the week to make sure the proper protocols are in place. A list of counties where visits can happen and the guidelines for the visits are available on the KRQE Resource page.


New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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