For two months now, residents in long term care facilities have been separated from their loved ones.
The North Dakota Vulnerable Population Protection Plan, also known as VP3, is now at the phase where it can start reuniting residents with their families.
The VP3 task force is made up of state officials, employees of long term care facilities, residents and their families, like Laurie Schlosser whose parents have been married for 60 years and have had no in-person contact for three months.
“You know, not being able to see him and she actually fell outside his window trying to visit him. And is now suffering some you know back pain and back troubles because of this Now she’s even limited to how often she can go up there because of how she’s feeling,” shares Schlosser.
Schlosser shares how she has seen a drastic change in not one, but both of her parents who, prior to coronavirus, spent every day together.
“My dad, who adjusted to being there, and that became his home and his family and he was happy. And you know I’ve watched him just fade a little bit every day. I’ve watched my mother become depressed. And you know their time together and our time together, that’s what life is about,” explained Schlosser.
To help families like theirs finally reunite, many factors will be taken into consideration, such as coronavirus case numbers in the county and also in the facilities themselves before moving on to the next phase.
“Prior to this, they were always allowed to make decisions regarding their life. And that decision-making power has been taken away with this issue. And I think that absolutely the vast majority will tell us very clearly open up the doors I want to see my family. My mental health has suffered in this 90 day period and I need my family,” shared Shelly Peterson, the president of the North Dakota Long Term Care Facility.
The three-phase approach is designed to slowly ease restrictions at long-term care facilities.
Phase 1 will focus on internally preparing the facilities.
One aspect of phase one each center will have to go through two mass testing events.
“Facilities have been diligently trying to schedule testing because it’s all centered around testing. They didn’t know and knew that at the beginning. Some are going into their fourth round and some are still waiting for their second round. So it really depends upon where you’re testing at in your facility,” shared Peterson.
Phases two and three will begin the reopening process.
Allowing one scheduled visitor per resident and allowing residents to travel outside of the facility.
It will also allow residents to do activities like communal activities like dining and bingo.
“In the facility, the family is going to have to wear protective gear, the resident is going to have to. It’s going to be only in their room or an area that’s designated,” explained Peterson.
Each facility will have to spend two weeks in each phase before moving to the next one.
The long term care association expects facilities across the state to be fully operating by the end of August.