Hillcrest nursing home hopes for return of visitors with new safety windows

Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 4:11 PM CDT
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In an effort to protect those most at risk from COVID -19 retirement communities have been closed to visitors for months. It's having a negative impact on residents' mental health.

These safety windows were designed by the team here at Hillcrest Health Services to allow families the chance to get to see and interact with their loved ones. But before they can be deployed for use here, the state needs to give them the green light.

"We just want our people who have been missing their families to be able to see each other and feel each other. You have such a much better connection, even without being able to touch, the connection here is there,” said Tammy Weston, facility administrator.

Since March 13th, residents at Hillcrest have only had interactions with the outside world through their room windows.

"We have to be on the phone and talking because you can't hear anything at all through the glass. And so, it's been nice for them to see each other and make a connection but the safety window will give us the opportunity where you can actually hear because it's plexiglass,” said Jim Janicki, VP of Marketing.

Right now, similar devices are being used in other states like Ohio but they haven't been approved for use in Nebraska.

By June 22nd every assisted living and skilled nursing facility in the state will need to submit their three-phased reopening plans to DHHS.

"Unfortunately, visitors aren't allowed to come into the building until phase 3 which could be quite a way off,” said Janicki.

A fact that'll continue to have a negative impact on people living here.

"You don't have that interaction with other residents, you're not seeing your family and so we're seeing a lot of cognitive decline and mental decline in residents across the system,” said Janicki.

The Nebraska Health Care Association president likes the idea. In a statement to 6 News he wrote, “Throughout this pandemic, long-term care providers have displayed innovation and creativity to best serve their residents. The visiting stations created by Hillcrest Health Services are an example."

They're hoping to hear back from the state later this week. For now, Hillcrest staff, residents, and their families will have to eagerly wait to see if they get the OK.

"They're looking for any way they can come in and see their loved ones. So, we've gotten so many positive comments and they all have their fingers crossed and they're hoping that the state comes through and gives us the okay to use them,” said Janicki.

In the meantime, Hillcrest was just awarded a grant to purchase iPads to help with video communication with residents and their families.