Missouri loosens nursing home visitation restrictions

Department of Health and Senior Services updates guidance.
Missouri Loosening Visitor Restrictions At Nursing Homes

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. – Area families with family members in nursing homes have been able to be close, but felt so far away and disconnected at the same time.

“We see her through a window. That’s if we’re lucky,” explains Jasper resident Tresa Maneval.

Maneval hasn’t been able to visit her 80-year-old mother Joan for three weeks, and even when she does it just isn’t the same.

“She has severe dementia, Alzheimer’s. So she doesn’t respond to talking. She responds to touch,” Maneval explains. “March 9th was the last time I was able to give my mom a hug. I said goodbye to her and I had no idea that would be the last time I would get to hold her hand or give her a hug.”

She says she’s had problems being able to get an appointment to see her mother at the nursing facility, and that she doesn’t really hear anything about her mother’s condition without specifically asking the nursing home. It makes it worse not being able to interact with her in a way that her mom understands.

Long-term care facilities across the state have had to restrict visitation to outside with social distancing, or through a window, since March when the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued guidance to impose restrictions on visitors.

“It’s always difficult when you can’t be with someone and touch them and see their facial expressions,” says Steve Jennings, a Joplin resident who has to see his mother through a window, and talk to her through Zoom.

“It would be difficult for anyone. It’s hard on my brothers, and it’s hard on my dad… they’ve been married over 60 years,” says Maneval.

But on September 22nd, the state health department issued guidance that loosens the restrictions on visitors.

Long-term care facilities now have to allow outside health care professionals and Ombudsman to come into their facilities.

Facilities can also establish Essential Caregiver programs, where an individual or family member can come into the facility to help a resident with quality of life care, such as bathing or just given them emotional support.

The state is also allowing facilities to open up to general visits again, as long as they are COVID-19 free for 14 days. Visits can happen inside with two people for each resident during a visit. The visits would happen inside a designated room, and visitors would have to stay six feet away from the resident. If a resident can’t leave their room, visitors would be able to visit them in their room as long as they are wearing a gown, mask, and gloves, and pass a health screening.

Maneval thinks that it’s a step in the right direction, but says it’s time for people to be able to give their family members a hug or hold their hand, so they can reconnect after spending so many months apart.

“If an employee can do all the things that they want to do, and then put on a mask and gloves and care for the residents, I don’t think it’s a bit of a stretch for family members to be able to do the exact same thing.”

The guidance went into effect on September 22nd.

Full guidance from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: