LUBBOCK, Texas — Governor Abbott announced Thursday nursing homes and senior living facilities will once again be allowed visitors but still with a few restrictions.
“One of the hardest things with COVID was the initial shutting down of our nursing facilities and to be separated from your family. Visiting through a window is not the same as an in-person visit,” said Lubbock Director of Public Health, Katherine Wells.
The new guidelines allow nursing home residents to designate two essential caregivers to visit them. These caregivers are not required to social distance but are only allowed in one at a time and must go through special training to enter the facility safely.
Mary Nichols’ mother is in a nursing home, and Nichols started a petition back in June calling for the governor to allow one essential caregiver into nursing homes. Her petition now has over 23 thousand signatures.
“We asked for an essential caregiver, and that’s what the governor said. Also, I’m a little hesitant to celebrate right now,” said Nichols.
Nichols said she was cautiously optimistic because nursing homes can choose whether or not to adopt these guidelines. But she was still hoping to be able to see her mother, who she has not seen in around six months.
“I should be able to go in as her essential caregiver and see her. However, I believe it is going to be totally and completely up to my mom’s facility,” said Nichols.
In Lubbock, there have been nearly 50 deaths linked to COVID-19 in nursing homes, Wells said those chosen as essential caregivers need to make sure they are being safe before visiting their loved one.
“I mean there is always a risk whenever we start to bring people together,” said Wells. “For families, they are going to have to make that decision whether they can be safe outside the nursing home, so they don’t bring it in to their loved one.”
But both Wells and Nichols hoped by allowing visitors, it would cheer up those residents in isolation.
“Being able to touch someone and hold their hand is all good for our mental health,” said Wells.
And while Nichols is unsure of if she will be able to see her mother, for her, this is a step in the right direction.
“Any movement toward getting visitors to their loved ones is a good thing,” said Nichols.
Those who are not essential caregivers can still schedule outdoor or socially distanced visitors with your loved one if their nursing home allows it. These new guidelines are effective September 24.