StoneyBrook Suites Assisted Living photo: Outdoor visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as this one at StoneyBrook Suites Assisted Living, are possible for family, in strict accordance with requirements of the South Dakota Department of Health.

Some Brookings long-term care facilities are implementing new ways for their residents to see family on more than just the screen of a phone or computer.

With safety measures still in place, some relatives are now able to visit their loved ones outdoors.

Still very limited

One of the brutal realities of the coronavirus pandemic is that residents of long-term care facilities – nursing homes and assisted living centers – are especially vulnerable. Accordingly, the South Dakota Department of Health issued a “State of South Dakota Back to Normal Long-Term Care Reopening Plan.”

In a three-phased approach, the plan looks to “support of ‘normalizing’ as much as possible … resident rights, dignity and autonomy while balancing resident safety, resident choice and socio-emotional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

One element that has been especially difficult to balance is the interpersonal relationship of residents, like visitation with their families and friends. 

Some Brookings facilities – all in Phase 1, with the “highest level of vigilance and mitigation” – are finding creative ways to make that happen.

“It’s still very, very limited: no outside visitors; only essential (people) in the building,” explained Peggy Vostad, administrator of StoneyBrook Suites Assisted Living. “We are doing some family visits out on the front porch with social distancing and wearing masks.

“And those are set up at various times. We’re doing very limited visits. With the clinic reopening. we’re still trying to do the telehealth as much as possible, so that we’re not exposing our residents.”

“We’re pretty much at the same place we were at the last time we visited (in April),” she said, “except that we are at least doing some family visits.”

Citing in simple terms what is needed to move on to Phase 2, relaxing restrictions and allowing indoor visitation, Vostad said, “There are certain criteria we have to meet. One of the criteria is that within the facility and within the community, there can be no spread of the virus for 14 days.

“So, seeing that and looking at the numbers, that are increasing, to get to that next phase is going to be a long time. Our No. 1 task at this point is to keep it (COVID-19) from getting inside our facility.”

She expressed gratitude for the community support for StoneyBrook: “We’ve been so blessed, in donating so many masks. We’ve had individuals who have provided treats for our staff, to encourage them.”

Courtyard visits

At the Neighborhoods at Brookview nursing home, which is also in Phase 1, Administrator Jason Hanssen is also working to get some balance in view of the SDDOH requirements.

“We are allowed courtyard visits,” he said. “That’s something we opened up to our families to come and do. It’s Monday through Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m., doing half-hour supervised visits.

“By that I mean we do have a staff member present to screen both the resident and visitor(s). A screening station is set up at the courtyard entry.

“The family member has to log in, who they are seeing, and at what time.” 

The visitor is asked about a sore throat and other symptoms. A temperature is taken and hand sanitation is done. For all visits, the family member has to wear a mask. Two family members are allowed per visit.

“That’s been very nice,” Hanssen said of the outdoor visits. “The community has been very supportive.”

He noted that the DOH has allowed beauticians to come in and do hair care. “That’s so important for our population here,” he explained, adding that there are “pretty strict regulations for allowing those beauticians to come in.”

Hanssen also noted that for the Phase 2 requirement of being free of COVID-19 for 14 days and no community spread, Brookings is not there yet.

Complete details for returning to “normal long-term” can be found online at

Contact John Kubal at 

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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