Nursing home visit

Joe Heck, far right, sat beside his daughter, Doris Hutton on Tuesday morning at Memory Lane Homes in Baker City for an outdoor visit with Joe’s wife (and Doris’ mom), Agnes Heck. Visitors to assisted living facilities have been restricted since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but state officials allowed outdoor visits to resume this week.

Doris Hutton and her father, Joe Heck, had a chance to do something Tuesday morning that they’ve missed since March.

They visited in person with Agnes Heck, who is Joe’s wife and Doris’ mother.

The family gathered on an outdoor deck at Memory Lane Homes in Baker City, where Agnes, 84, is a resident.

Hutton, 59, and her father, who’s 88, were the first visitors to enjoy an outdoor visit with a resident since the coronavirus pandemic started, prompting state officials to severely restrict access to assisted living facilities.

Older people are much more likely to suffer severe effects from the virus.

Of the 269 Oregonians who have died from COVID-19, according to the Oregon Health Authority, 198 — almost 74% — are 70 or older. And 127 of those who died — 47% — were 80 or older.

The Oregon Department of Human Services this week announced that outdoor visits could resume at licensed care facilities, including residential and memory care centers and adult foster homes.

Memory Lane Homes received its paperwork Monday night and the next morning welcomed Hutton and Joe Heck for a visit with Agnes Heck.

Hutton was happy to visit her mother after the restrictions that have prevailed for more than 4 months.

“It’s been hard,” Hutton said.

Memory Lane Homes and other facilities are required to follow a series of precautions during outdoor visits.

Visitors sit at one end of a 6-foot-long table, with the resident at the other end. Everyone wears a mask, and visitors apply hand sanitizer, and have their temperature checked, when they arrive.

“I will do one family at a time,” said Nicole Howerton, administrator at Memory Lane Homes.

Howerton said relatives of residents are very excited about the chance to visit in a more relaxed setting. During the spring, relatives were limited to standing outside and seeing their loved ones through a window.

“We’ll just have everything out, ready for them and try to do this and get these families involved again,” Howerton said.

Meadowbrook Place in Baker City has submitted its plan to the state for approval, and officials hope to start visits next week.

“We bought a new shade covering. We’re going to do appointment only so we can make sure that we can monitor those visitations,” said Suzanne Miller, administrator at Meadowbrook Place.

Meadowbrook will allow one visit at a time, with a limit of two visitors.

Miller hopes widespread virus testing of staff and residents will lead to further easing of visitor limits. Oregon’s plan is to offer at least one test to every resident and employee at each of the state’s 684 licensed facilities by Sept. 30.

“We’re hoping once all those tests are completed, we actually started the testing today, that maybe it’ll start loosening some of the restrictions up,” Miller said.

Settler’s Park in Baker City will also be offering outdoor visits.

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