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Loved ones reunite as senior living communities, nursing homes welcome back visitors

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued updated guidance earlier this month that allowed "responsible indoor visitation" at their facilities.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For more than half a year, Ellen Sears has not been able to see her mother in person.

"I was counting back," she said. "I believe it's been about six or seven months."

Sears' mother, Claire Stanley, has been a resident at Nazareth Home in Clifton for several years. Last March, the senior living community closed its doors at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which disproportionately affected many nursing homes and assisted living communities.

"March 8, I believe, I actually got off a plane around midnight and by the next morning, I would have come to visit her because I had been out of town and the nursing home was already shut off to visitors," Sears said.

While she was not allowed to go inside the facility for months, Sears said she continued staying in touch with her mother, who turned 97 last June.

"We tried FaceTime a couple of times. Technology is not for her. We were able to do a window visit one time," she said. "Her mode of communication, her preferred one is actually letter writing. So I would drop off notes every week, notes and pictures."

Sears and her brother were able to visit Stanley in person in August and September, but once coronavirus cases started increasing again, they were shut out once more.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversee facilities like Nazareth Home, issued updated guidance earlier this month that allowed "responsible indoor visitation" at their facilities for all residents regardless of the vaccination status of the residents and visitors.

Certain exceptions are for:

  • Unvaccinated residents if the COVID-19 positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of the residents are fully vaccinated
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 cases, whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated

Nazareth Home began allowing visitors this week. According to Roberta Steutermann, the director of development at Nazareth Home, people must schedule appointments to visit their loved ones. Once they arrive, they must fill out a form inquiring about recent symptoms or contact with COVID-19 and must have their temperature taken.

Everyone is required to wear a face covering at all times and the facilities have masks and face shields available for those who need them.

"When I think of what this past year has been, it's a small part of my life. It's really a smaller part of my mother's life," Sears said. "We can make it and we can do it."

"I think you live where you are at the moment," Stanley said. "You just shape up to it."

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