Grand Strand senior living facility set to welcome families for visits

Outdoor Visits at Long-Term Facilities

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - After six months of restrictions due to COVID-19, families can now see their loved ones face-to-face.

Across South Carolina, 41 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities were approved for limited outdoor visitations.

Carolina Gardens at Garden City, Inlet Coastal Resort in Murrells Inlet and Commander Nursing Center in Florence are the three approved facilities in our area allowed to have limited outdoor visits.

On Wednesday, Carolina Gardens at Garden City is welcoming back family members who have scheduled visits for limited outdoor visitation.

Carolina Gardens is unique in that there hasn’t been a single COVID-19 case since the beginning of the pandemic, and workers hope to keep it going.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has strict guidelines for those facilities approved for visits:

  • Screening of residents for any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection with documentation occurring at least daily, and for staff at the start of each shift.
  • Facility has adequate staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Facility must provide their written plan for limited outdoor visitation to SCDHEC’s Healthcare Quality Division.
  • There have been no cases among staff and residents identified in the facility within the last 14 days.
  • For a nursing home, testing must be occurring per CMS requirements before visitation may begin at the facility. Community residential care facilities (and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities who are recommended to follow these guidelines) may begin visitations before testing is in place, but testing as described in the CMS requirements for nursing homes must be occurring within 30 days from when these guidelines for outdoor visitation are issued.

Visitations at long-term care facilities have been restricted since March, with end-of-life visits permitted on a case-by-case basis.

Matthew Piepenbring, Carolina Gardens at Garden City executive director, said he thinks their precautions and levels of care are putting them in a good spot to accept visitors again.

“I believe the short period of time, six-feet distance, pre-screening, hand washing, they are going to be washing their hands immediately when they come to us. We are going to be checking temperatures, oxygen levels and checking off if they’ve had any symptoms in the last 14 days, so I think our guidelines and policies that were accepted by DHEC have us in a great position to not have to worry too much about it," Piepenbring said.

In addition to making each visit socially distant, staff at Carolina Gardens at Garden City will disinfect anything touched.

To ensure the safety of both residents and staff, they have a strict system in place for each visit with a manager present for all visits.

Managers will supervise the visits to ensure there’s proper hand washing and proper wearing of PPE.

Piepenbring said they have about 70 residents.

He said they sent out a visitation schedule last Friday and they’ve already had a lot of calls from eager family members.

“The families have been great and understanding that we do have a limited time per DHECs guidelines, and that we would like them to come early so we can do screening, disinfecting, things like that in between each visit," he said.

Piepenbring added based on the SCDHEC guidelines, if a staff member or resident tests positive, they’d have to do two-week isolation but said they’ll likely do a month.

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