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Oklahoma House passes bill for family to visit long-term care facility residents

Posted at 10:25 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 08:27:25-05

TULSA, Okla. — It’s been nearly one year since long-term care facilities in Oklahoma closed their doors to visitors.

Some families have gone almost that long without seeing their loved ones. While they are now getting a bit more access with outdoor visits, a new bill would make sure this isolation never happens again.

“It’s terrible," said Paula Naylor. "You feel so helpless.”

For nine months, Naylor only saw her father through a window or a screen. He lives at The Parke Assisted Living. She said he was thriving until the pandemic hit and it had to close to visitors.

“Pandemic came and he has steadily just gotten depressed and a little dementia," Naylor said. "So it’s been really hard.”

Finally, in December, the family socially-distanced to celebrate her dad’s 98 birthday in-person.

Residents and their families aren’t the only ones frustrated by some of these rules.

“I have shed many a tear, many a night," said Michayne Morris, executive director of The Parke.

Morris said, at times, some residents quit eating and drinking, and are depressed from a lack of visitors and a lack of socializing among themselves.

“And it is the hardest thing to try to explain to them why they cannot see their loved ones. Why they cannot be social and active and gather in groups," Morris said.

She wishes she could let them get together more, but they have to follow regulations and mandates from the CDC and state health department.

“It’s just so much information that from week to week we’re like, okay we can do this. No, we can’t do this," Morris said. "It’s just all been so very scattered.”

Now, State Rep. Marilyn Stark (R-House District 100) is hoping to change that.

Her bill, HB1677, would require these facilities to allow each resident one or more compassionate caregivers, granting them in-person visits even if the state health department restricts access to the facilities.

“It says, whatever is going on in the world, whatever is going on in our city, we have a right to see our families," Rep. Stark said. "We have a right to see those that we love.”

Something Naylor hopes happens soon.

“The sooner the better because I just don’t think these older folks can take it much longer," Naylor said.

The bill passed the House Monday night. It now goes to the Senate.

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