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Senior facilities prepare for outdoor visits

FAIRMONT — The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, especially senior citizens. While precautions are in place virtually everywhere, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes perhaps have seen the most strict.

While many senior facilities closed to visitors in March, many also began allowing window visits with loved ones. Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health released guidelines that will allow outdoor visits.

Goldfinch community sales and marketing manager Mary Larson said the Fairmont facility follows state guidelines but its parent company, Vista Prairie, has its own set of policies.

“There are criteria we need to put into place. We need to have designated visiting areas and set up appointment schedules. There’s some work involved,” Larson said.

She said Goldfinch is trying to expedite the process to have it in place this week.

Larson said not being able to visit with family members has affected residents in a huge way. Many have been dealing with loneliness and isolation because of coronavirus restrictions.

“They’re missing their families and that socialization. Family interaction is vey important at this age,” Larson said.

She said the last few months of window visits have been nice, but there have been some drawbacks.

“At least they could see them, but when you’re hard of hearing it’s hard to interact through a closed window,” Larson pointed out.

Lisa Lange, executive director at Temperance Lake Ridge in Sherburn, said the facility plans to begin outdoor visits Monday.

“There are very strict guidelines we have to follow,” she said.

Lange said Temperance Lake follows Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, but submitted its proposed plan to its corporate parent as well.

Guidelines include: visits need be scheduled and cannot last more than 30 minutes; everyone needs to stay 6 feet apart; visitors have to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperature taken; all guests and residents must wear face masks and shields; and there can be no touching or hugging. Staff must supervise from a distance.

Lange believes that despite the strict rules families are excited for the opportunity and Temperance Lake Ridge has had several call to schedule visits.

“At least it’s a step forward,” she said.

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