Frustration, heartache continue as most nursing homes remain closed to visitors

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — After the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced the allowance of limited visits in nursing homes, state lawmakers and families said what’s happening is not cutting it. State Rep. James Frank said few facilities in Texas meet the requirements, and he’s been urging families to speak out.

Susan Starr said her mother, who is in Hospice Care, can’t handle the separation much longer.
Starr moved her mom from rehab to a nursing home and one week later, Starr was locked out.

“On March 14 we went to dinner, we went shopping and we went for hair cuts,” Starr said.”Then on March 15, the doors were locked, and I couldn’t see her.”

The state began allowing limited visitations at the beginning of August, but the list of requirements is a long one.

Frank said only 2% of facilities make the cut.

“That’s not anyone’s definition of open, I guess it is for the 2% it is, but it’s certainly not what families were expecting,” Frank said. “It’s not what I was expecting.”

Starr and Frank emphasize the health risks for isolation too. Starr said her mother has lost about 50 pounds since entering the facility.

“Some people can do a window visit, my mom it would make her crazy, she couldn’t do that, that would upset her even worse,” Starr said.

“In most cases, it is not safe to be alone,” Frank said.

Bina McDaniel, who puts a call into Gov. Greg Abbott’s office daily, is dealing with not seeing her sister.

“It’s not fair to these people, it’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to them,” McDaniel said. “I, myself, and I know other families would be willing to wear a mask to get to go see their family members, stay out of the common areas.”

As Chairman of the Texas House Committee on Human Services, Frank reminds this decision is up to the governor. He said he’s ready for something to give.

“I think families and patients have been almost too patient during this process,” Frank said. “Really we need to be loud to say this not acceptable.”

Six months without family in the facility and potentially six months more is time Starr isn’t sure her mother can take.

“There’s a whole lot of people who have come into nursing homes and passed of natural consequences,” Frank said. “Un-COVID related without ever being able to see a loved one.”

“There’s a chance that I might not even see my mom alive again,” Starr said. “This virus isn’t going away anytime soon, we have to make a way to safely visit our loved ones.”

Families continue hoping the governor is listening. Meanwhile, Frank is planning to file legislation next session allowing one family member to always have access as an essential caregiver.

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