New executive order allows face-to-face visits to return at Texas nursing homes

COVID-19 regulations have prevented many Texans from seeing or hugging their loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities for about six months, but that is about to change thanks to an executive order issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott Thursday.

At the Village of the Heights Senior Living, the celebrations happened Friday, as families were finally being allowed to greet each other face to face.

It’s part of the gradual return to normal, beginning with visits through Plexiglas in August. Governor Abbott’s latest executive order allows in-person visits, so long as they follow guidance from Texas Health and Human Services.

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It goes into effect Thursday, Sept. 24, but the Village of the Heights celebrated a few days early with an in-person cookout in honor of assisted living week.

“Today they’ve got their masks on, they’re outside, but they’re also being socially distant with one another,” said Diann DiFrancesco, senior vice president of operations, Village of the Heights.

At The Village of River Oaks Senior Living, some families decided to remove their loved ones from the facility since they were not allowed to see them. Others decided the assisted living facility was the safest place for their relatives during the pandemic, but they remained anxious to return to in-person visits.

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Kathy Sanders says she’s glad the months of separation from her 89-year-old mother are behind her.

“Oh it’s a huge relief,” said Sanders. “It was a horrible horrible time span, yeah. I was so worried about her. She’s got Alzheimer’s, and I was worried that she was going to mentally deteriorate without the stimulation that she needed.”

With the new executive order, nursing homes and assisted living facilities still have to get the okay from the state for the in-person visits, and they do still come with some restrictions, as listed here.