SALT LAKE CITY — Ever since the pandemic started, people in assisted living facilities have been unable to see their loved ones due to COVID-19. However, the Utah Department of Health recently released guidelines to make in person visits possible.
There are still concerns about the spread of coronavirus throughout assisted living facilities but the Utah Department of Health says in person visits are vital for the mental and emotional health of residents.
“You could see that they needed desperately that interaction that human interaction from people,” said Heather Gardner, a community advocate.
Heather Gardner has spent the last few months visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities. She’s doing her best to lift the spirits of people living there.
“We’ve also been chalking the sidewalks outside the facilities, putting posters on the windows for the workers and for the residence, letting them know that we love them that we care about them,” said Gardner.
She says new guidelines from the Utah Department of Health outlining safe visits at assisted living facilities, is a win for everyone.
“They’re suffering, they're suffering with depression and they're suffering with loneliness and we’re seeing deaths that are not related to COVID and some of them are in their end-of-life portion and they need family by their side to help guide them through that,” said Gardner.
The Department of Health says they wanted to put guidelines in place, so families can be reunited.
“I think when this guidance came out we had reports of people cheering, so I think it’s going to make a huge difference for these folks,” said Joel Hoffman, the Bureau Director of Health Facilities Licensing and Certification.
The guidelines include screenings for symptoms of COVID, wearing a mask and wearing PPE when inside buildings.
“They may not be able to hug or kiss them on the cheek, but they can still say hi and visit and make sure they’re doing OK,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman says families tell him they don’t care what they have to do, as long as they can see their loved ones.
“I’ve had people tell me that, I’m 78 years old or I’m 80 years old and I don’t have long to live and I’d like to see my loved ones,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman says the next step is to create guidelines for nursing homes.
“Nursing homes have been hit a little harder, nursing homes are a bit of a more medical model so you have more fragile or more frail people in those situations, so we’re taking that one a little slower making sure we have all the information down and the history to know how this is exactly going to work,” said Hoffman