‘We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while’: Visitors allowed in Eudora assisted living facility for first time

photo by: Misty Thompson

Kim Neis, left, is pictured with her mom, Doris Schehrer, on Feb. 16 at Homestead of Eudora. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Neis had not seen her mom in person since June 24, 2020.

COVID-19 visitation restrictions kept Eudora resident Kay Speed separated from her 93-year-old father, who lives in the Homestead of Eudora assisted living facility. But on Tuesday, Speed was reunited with her dad, Joe Perryman, for the first time since October.

“We have our masks on, so you couldn’t see our very big smiles. But I can’t even tell you how nice it is to see each other physically in the same room,” Speed said.

Homestead of Eudora started operating in June 2020, months after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Kansas. Tuesday was the first time that the residents were allowed to welcome guests into their home.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while. It’s outstanding,” Perryman said. “It’s hot-diggity-dog.”

photo by: Misty Thompson

Kay Speed is pictured with her 93-year-old dad, Joe Perryman, on Feb. 16 at Homestead of Eudora. Tuesday was the first day Speed and Perryman had seen each other in-person since October of 2020.

Homestead of Eudora changed its visitation policy after residents and staff members at the community were offered both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a news release. After the second dose, the facility waited the recommended 14 days to ensure the vaccine had time to be fully effective. Starting Tuesday, the facility began welcoming visitors, albeit with restrictions: Visits must be scheduled in advance, and visitors must test negative for COVID-19 when they arrive for their visit, wear face masks and pass a screening test.

Brandy Coons, Homestead of Eudora’s executive director, said in the news release that the facility was “delighted” to welcome guests.

“This will be the first time since our residents moved in that they can host their loved ones and have an in-person conversation in the comfort of their apartment – not through a window or on a patio,” Coons said. “It’s just wonderful news.”

Speed said it had been difficult for both her and her dad to deal with loneliness and solitude throughout the pandemic.

“We’re five minutes away from each other, yet we couldn’t really visit each other,” Speed said.

Perryman described himself as a patient person who could put up with the pandemic, but he said that he was thankful he could receive the vaccine and that he had hope for the future. Now that his family members are able to visit him in person, “I feel more human,” Perryman said.

Kim Neis also got to see a loved one in person at Homestead of Eudora for the first time on Tuesday. Prior to Tuesday, Neis said she’d seen her mom through the windows, but that she hadn’t seen her in person since June 24. She described seeing her mom again as being “like Christmas morning, only better.”

Neis’ mom, Doris Schehrer, has dementia, but Neis said her mom recognized her on Tuesday. Neis said she was looking forward to talking to her mom, looking through photo albums and bouncing a ball with her.

Other long-term care facilities in the area are also welcoming visitors.

Pioneer Ridge Health and Rehab is allowing visits as long as the county’s test positivity rate is under 10% and there are no active cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents at the facility. Because Pioneer Ridge Health and Rehab is a nursing home, Ali Ellis, spokesperson for Midwest Health, said that those visiting regulations were mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Pioneer Ridge, like Homestead of Eudora, is one of the communities Midwest Health manages.

Ellis said assisted living communities like Homestead of Eudora and Pioneer Ridge Assisted Living were regulated by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Ellis said there was no mandate from the state that visits had to be permitted, so not all assisted living facilities had started in-person visits yet. Ellis said Pioneer Ridge Assisted Living was scheduled to begin allowing visits on Feb. 22.

Lisa Diehl, a spokesperson for Lawrence Presbyterian Manor, said that visitation was beginning to open up at that facility, and that there were designated areas on the campus where residents could visit in person with their families. Visits must be scheduled in advance, visitors must wear masks and a resident may not have more than two visitors at a time. Diehl said visitation status depended on the county’s positivity rate and any positive tests on the campus.

A spokesperson from Brandon Woods at Alvamar said the facility was allowing visitation in all of its levels of care, but with guidelines in place such as social distancing and correct use of personal protective equipment.

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