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Updated guidelines for long term care facilities allows doors to open again

Updated guidelines for long term care facilities allows doors to open again

Magnolias of Summerville is one of many assisted living centers across the state and nation that are now able to function under newly updated COVID-19 guidelines. 

An updated set of guidelines was recently released that allow for nursing care facilities to loosen policies a bit. For Magnolias of Summerville, a long-term care facility based here, residents and caregivers have seen dramatic changes as these procedures take effect first hand.

A little over a year away from the date that restrictions were first implemented in long-term care facilities and nursing homes last year, new guidelines released by DHEC on March 19 established updated visitation instructions for assisted living facilities, nursing homes and community residential care facilities. As part of new guidelines, DHEC reported that all facilities were required to allow visitation.

In accordance with the federal guidance that was released March 10, 2021, the new protocol allows for a much needed breath of fresh air. 

Sean Davis, executive director of Magnolias, has watched the benefits for their 60 residents.

“It was about two weeks ago we received guidance from the states which makes things far more accommodating for residents to enjoy time with family and friends both inside and outside the community,” said Davis.

Magnolias was forced to comply with federal guidelines in March of 2020, that placed long-term care facilities in a strict quarantine environment leaving residents nearly disconnected from the outside world. Until the recent changes, communication with friends and family has been extremely limited throughout the ongoing pandemic.

Even with a team of people assisting residents with the technology, Davis says that many struggled to truly communicate due to visual and hearing impairments. For most, the functions of technology such as Facetime and Zoom, which aided the population at large were simply not relatable options for residents.

“Engagement is critical. For any population, whether a long-term care setting or a school setting, one-on-one interpersonal connection is paramount and for the first several months of the quarantine period, where we were all adapting to a variety of new policies and trying to understand what Covid-19 meant, residents were cut off from family and friends in very distinct ways and for long periods of time and that had debilitating consequences,” Davis said. “ So the opportunities for them to reconnect with friends and family, it's just huge. It's such a meaningful difference.”

Davis says with the majority of residents and staff members being fully vaccinated, the community is able to experience these less restrictive visitation options that include unscheduled visitations. This allows families the opportunity to come into the facility and for residents to be able to leave the facility and enjoy more personal time, without having restrictions on when they return to the community or the need to quarantine.

Davis says that the facility continues to follow safety mitigations, such as health screenings and mask wearing, but residents are able to see a less restrictive environment.

“It's good to get back to normal. We are still abiding by all the infection control procedures to reconnect everyone on a more personal level,” Davis said. “ It's just huge...we just aren't meant to be quarantined.”