‘It’s almost like we’re at home’: How senior facilities allowing visitation are managing

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 9:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For months, seniors in assisted living facilities were forced into only seeing their family through virtual options, or maybe a window if they were lucky. Now, some are putting strict mandates in place to protect the high-risk individuals they serve while still allowing them to see their loved ones face to face.

It’s a lot of work that only just came to fruition toward the beginning of August, according to Aspen Creek Senior Living Center’s executive director Anna Houser.

Inside the lobby are logbooks for visitors to fill out detailed information about their travel history, any symptoms they could be feeling and any kind of COVID-19 related exposure they may have had. There’s also a digital thermometer and a basket of fresh masks if visitors happen to forget.

Not every facility is doing this. Several homes Alaska’s News Source reached out to said they are still not permitting visitors at this time. However, some said they were, with similar restrictions.

With the mandates in place, Houser said much of the success they’ve had with visitation comes from the visitors' help.

“We have an amazing community of families, and they’re really good about making sure that they’re the ones keeping their loved ones safe,” she said. “Like, ‘No mom, you have to stay there. I love you but until this is over, this is how we’re going to do that.’”

One group doing just that is Evelyn Moss’s daughters. She’s got nine kids all together, two who live in Anchorage. Two from out of state have been visiting Anchorage for a little over a week, going to see their mom every day.

Moss, like many of the residents according to Houser, wasn’t a big fan of the masks. Her daughter, Marge Boone, said even with hearing aids, it’s really hard for her to understand what people are saying without lips to read. Still, it’s better than where she came from in San Diego, where they’re “pretty much still locked down.” The same goes for her sister Dottie Watson, who came from Washington.

It’s not the first time they’ve come to see their mom during the pandemic. They were also some of the folks visiting their parents from outside a window when that was the only option. Even then, they said they had to wait until June.

As for Moss, she said she didn’t mind the virtual visits, but “you can’t beat face to face.” While she and her daughters harmonized over old campfire songs and oldies hits they’ve been singing to their entire lives, the look on her face made that seem like more of a fact than an opinion.

Part of the visitation program’s success at Aspen Creek, according to Houser, is the fact that they’ve been doing them outside. She said pretty soon it’s going to be too cold for that, even with blankets and propane heaters like they’re using now.

When that happens, Houser said they’ll allow visitation in the only other room with an outside exit at the facility; a small physical fitness center that already had a few chairs set up in the middle. She said it is too small for more than one family at a time. So the room will have to work on a reservation basis until they can figure something else out.

“We’ll come up with that and hope for a few more extended days of just mediocre weather,” Houser said.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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