Haaland residents, families enjoy outdoor visits again
A mother and daughter sat in the shade on a sunny afternoon this week at Rugby’s Haaland Estates, enjoying their opportunity to visit after weeks of isolation.
“I’m Sharon Goetz, and this is my mother, Esther D’Heilly,” the daughter said with a wave from several feet away. “We’re from Towner.”
Both women wore blue paper masks as they chatted at a table at the building’s main front entrance.
Haaland and Heart of America Medical Center’s long-term care unit have begun scheduling outdoor visits for their residents as part of Phase One of Gov. Doug Burgum’s North Dakota Smart Restart program. Both facilities have been arranging visits for two weeks, according to Kelly Clements, nursing manager at Haaland Estates.
“They’re so happy to see their loved ones,” Clements said. “It’s been a huge benefit for the residents to finally see their families and for the families to see their grandparents, or their moms and dads.”
“We needed this badly,” Clements added.
Clements said visits to residents must be scheduled in advance. Seven blocks of time for visits are available per day Monday through Friday. Visits must follow guidelines set up by the North Dakota Department of Health.
Visits to Haaland Estates “have to be monitored by staff,” Clements said. Receptionist Chelsea Monroe sits inside to monitor visits at the home’s front entrance.
“Visitors have to be screened before the visit,” Clements added. “They have to do hand hygiene, they have to wear a mask and they have to stay six feet apart.”
Clements said both Haaland Estates and HAMC’s long-term units could possibly move into a second, less restrictive phase.
“We did our fourth COVID testing today and if everything comes back good, then we can move into phase two,” Clements noted. “And again, with phase two, there are a lot of guidelines to it, just like phase one.”
“We’ll have the same (guidelines as the first phase), but visitors can come into the building,” Clements explained.
“There will be less restrictions on staff,” she added. “Now, they’re going through a lot just to enter the building. We’ll be able to lighten that up. I think the residents and the staff are all eagerly awaiting phase two.”
“It’s just been a long three months,” Clements added with a laugh.
Clements said that although many residents have been able to visit loved ones on weekdays, others “aren’t seeing family because they live so far away. Even though visitation has been good, we thought we’d see a lot more people, but it’s hard for families. It’s hard because we can’t schedule (visits) for evenings because I don’t have the staff. So, some people can’t visit during the times we’ve given them.”
“We were spoiled before,” Clements added, “because we used to be able to come and go freely, and now there’s no way we can do that.”
Clements said as staff and resident testing continues, and results remain negative, facilities like Haaland Estates will eventually move into phase three. In that phase, families would be allowed to take residents outside the facility for visits and trips to places like restaurants.
The visitation program in place for the past two weeks has been successful, she noted.
“We have seven openings a day and for the last two weeks, we’ve been full. We’ve already done at least 70 visits,” Clements noted.
“A lot of visits were for the same residents. We have some residents who have 12 or 16 kids, so we’ve had a lot of repeats. But we have some who don’t have family that is close or can travel, so it’s hard for them,” she added.
Clements said staff can find it difficult to keep up the spirits of residents without visitors. Social distancing restrictions also pose a challenge.
“This has been very challenging for the activities department,” Clements said. “We have to keep the residents six feet apart and limit numbers. The dining room situation has been very hard. Eating a meal is a very social event. It has not been social for them because they’re the only ones at the table.”
“Activities has really struggled, but they’ve come up with some amazing things to do,” Clements noted. “Every afternoon, they have a movie in the chapel. We have all the chairs (spaced) to keep everybody six feet apart.”
“They’re doing a lot of different things,” she added. “They’ve started doing outside bus rides, keeping everybody six feet apart. We did that a few times to get some of the people who were really declining outside.”
“They went to Towner one day,” Clements said. “They drove around Towner and came back. They didn’t go anywhere or stop anywhere, but at least it got the people outside”
“They’ve been playing bingo with everybody spread far apart. But, they’re doing it. The activities department’s been great,” Clements added.
Clements said she was hopeful Haaland Estates would move into the next phase of the North Dakota Smart Restart program.
“The governor said we can do outside visits. There are certain restrictions and we’ve met all those,” Clements said. ” I believe the care center is doing all those. Once you enter phase two, you can allow inside visits. The care center tested today, too, so hopefully, they can progress along, too.”
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