Anchorage Pioneer Home resumes limited visitation

Bill and Philip Badger taking time to visit in-person on Wednesday afternoon, at the Anchorage...
Bill and Philip Badger taking time to visit in-person on Wednesday afternoon, at the Anchorage Pioneer Home.(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 6:51 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The state’s largest Pioneer Home is resuming a limited visitation policy for residents and their families. The change comes 11 months after the state-owned assisted living facility closed its doors to the public, amid the growing presence of COVID-19 in Alaska.

According to Anchorage Pioneer Home administrator Rich Saville, the decision to start visitations follows the recent downward trend in COVID-19 cases in the community — and the successful vaccination of around 90% of the residents that currently live in the facility. Around 50% of the staff at the APH have also been vaccinated as well.

Saville says the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone at the Pioneer Home, residents and employees alike. There have been very limited options for families and residents to interact.

“We haven’t had anybody coming in unless it’s family in a hospice or end-of-life type of situation,” Saville said. “We’ve really tried to get our elders to stay in as much as possible, of course, they have free-will and they can leave.”

On Wednesday, sisters Kim Kiml and Winter Wolf were able to drop their mother’s monthly care package in person for the first time since early 2020. Their mother has dementia and it’s been difficult to rely on phone and video calls as their only method of speaking with her.

“It’s awesome that they let us do this for her,” Kiml said. “She looks forward to it.”

Carrying a box full of Valentine’s Day decorations, Wolf told Alaska’s News Source that they planned on making up for lost time by celebrating a few holidays early.

“I hope her Easter decorations aren’t still up,” she laughed. “That’s what was the last time I saw her.”

Lynn Seitz was able to see her mother first, while several of her siblings plan to take turns visiting soon.

“Well, it was a little bit of a shock to be there in person, and think about how long it’s been,” she said. “Just talking about how nice it was to see each other in person and talking about things we were going to do in her room together — regular daily things.”

For Saville, the return of visitors is a sight for sore eyes. It’s been difficult for his staff to keep people away from their loved ones for almost a year. His staff hopes to continue offering limited visits between residents and their family members as long as the risk of COVID-19 continues to decrease in Anchorage.

“One of the consistent things I have said to people is ‘I really have no idea what this is like for you, I can only imagine it’s got to be difficult.’ So, to see people come in to see their mom or dad, we feel like a weight’s been taken off our shoulders,” he said.

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