Safety measures abound at local nursing homes

Photo by Stephen Wilkerson

By Stephen Wilkerson, Staff Reporter

During the COVID outbreak, assisted living facilities throughout Amarillo have to constantly update their procedures in accordance with state regulations. These changes have impacted Amarillo College students who work in the facilities and students and college employees with family members there.

At Park Central (a facility located in downtown Amarillo), nonessential personnel are not allowed in the building and all essential personnel must be screened before entering. At Park Central, screening begins with checking temperatures and screening questions about symptoms and contacts. Before anyone can enter past the foyer, they must have a mask. The doors to Georgia Manor nursing home have been closed until further notice to prospective visitors. No person is allowed in except members of the staff.

Imelda Ortiz, a nursing major and charge nurse at Georgia Manor said the staff has been working extra hard to ensure the safety of their residents since there were two residents who tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago. All the necessary steps to isolate them and transfer them to a different facility have been taken, she said, adding that this has made the rules for visitation even stricter than before. Ortiz said she has a difficult time turning away relatives. 

“It’s hard having to tell family they can’t come in. For some, all they have is the joy of seeing their family every day. We still get some family members that try to come in and when we refuse them, they stand outside the doors and yell that they’re going to report us. Go ahead because we’re just doing our part to keep your loved ones safe,” she said. 

The staff still keeps up morale in any way they can, Ortiz said. They play hallway versions of all their regular games, but all group activity has been canceled. “When I go to check up on all my residents, I don’t leave a room unless I get a smile or a laugh out of them at least once,” she said. 

At Park Central, one relative has figured out a way to avoid having to be screened or going into the building at all. Lynae Jacob, a speech instructor at Amarillo College, got creative and came up with a way she could show her love for her 84-year-old mother and resident, Trisha Latham. “My sister, my daughter and I wrote ‘We love you Grammy’ with a heart next to it in chalk on the pavement outside her window. Then we made three signs for each of us to hold that read ‘Grammy’ on one, ‘Is A’ on another and ‘Hottie’ on the third. Then we danced and waved our arms in the air as she watched from the window,” Jacob said.

Jacob said she believes that the staff at Park Central is doing a great job being accountable for not just her mother, but all of the residents there as well. “When it comes to old and vulnerable people, all of the restrictions that Park Central has initiated are absolutely necessary. My mom feels safe there and that eases my mind,” Jacob said. 

The facility does let family come pick residents up and bring them back as long as they take the proper precautions and it is only for a short period of time. “We choose not to take her anywhere for her safety,” Jacob said. “But my mom is an optimist. She chooses to look at the positive. That makes our situation easier than some. Attitude is everything. But we miss the hugs mostly.” 

Jacob said she is grateful for the caregivers. “Especially those on the front lines who are doing all the work for us,” she said. 

Park Central employees said they do their part to ensure that residents have what they need to get through. “If we haven’t seen a resident at least twice in the lobby throughout the day, then we call to check and see if they’re doing OK or if they need anything,” Linda Edwards, a front desk employee, said. 

Anyone hoping to visit loved one at these facilities or facilities like them should be willing to wear a mask, should be prepared to be turned away and shouldn’t be afraid to get creative. Park Central tower is located on Harrison street in downtown Amarillo. Please follow all guidelines set out by the state and any other leading health officials.

“I’m extremely hopeful. I feel very safe and that is worth everything,” Jacob said.

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