Assisted living centers, nursing homes receive updated visitor guidance

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Almost a year after long-term care facilities in the state were closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new guidance issued this week may soon allow certain visitors. At least one facility in Ardmore is already beginning to explore the new guidance. 

The guidelines updated this week allow long-term care facilities and assisted living centers to allow each resident at least one essential caregiver to make in-person visits. Those caregivers would have to first complete essential care training before visitation is allowed.  

“At the onset of the pandemic, we reviewed the emerging data on COVID-19, and we knew elderly Oklahomans and those with comorbidities were at high risk in our long-term care centers,” said Gov. Stitt in a Tuesday statement.  

“Isolation and depression are a very real threat for Oklahomans who have been separated from their loved ones by COVID-19. Now, with vaccinations being carried out at long-term care centers across the state and case levels on the decline, we believe families can now safely see their loved ones,” said Stitt. 

Masks would still be required but further restrictions may be relaxed if at least one person is vaccinated, according to Tuesday’s enhanced guidance from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. 

“This new guidance is life-altering for Oklahomans living in long-term care centers and their family members who have been separated for so long,” said Deputy Commissioner of Health Innovation Travis Kirkpatrick. “We urge all long-term care centers to follow these new guidelines.”   

Among local facilities already considering the updated guidelines is Elmbrook Home. While no official change to visitation policies had been announced by Wednesday, management is asking family members and outside caregivers for patience while the new guidelines are reviewed. 

“Realizing both the potential benefits and risks of allowing additional essential caregivers into the building, we will carefully consider this guidance as well as other criteria such as the current state of COVID-19 in our setting and local communities,” read a Tuesday statement. 

Efforts to reach representatives from Canoe Brook Assisted Living and Southbrook Healthcare were unsuccessful on Wednesday. 

New guidance from state health officials allows nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state to open visitation to certified caregivers appointed by residents.