By Jill B. Byrd
For families with loved ones in assisted living communities, the COVID-19 global health pandemic has taken its toll. The rollout of the highly anticipated vaccine is the gift everyone is waiting for.
Fred and Lois Jones have been assisted living residents at Franklin Park Alamo Heights for more than 18 months. Their daughter, CeCe Givens, made the decision to seek extra care for her parents after both were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Fred and Lois have been married for 65 years. Givens knew she needed to place them together in an assisted living community that offered them their own apartment but provided them with the level of care they required.
“I am blessed in that I am able to be very active in my parents’ lives, and in fact, before COVID-19, I was visiting my parents daily to help them with their calendars, cleaning, laundry and medicine,” said Givens. “But when COVID-19 struck, it really put everyone in a predicament. It was not an ideal situation by any means, but Franklin Park did what they had to do [in accordance with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC)] to keep the residents safe. And my parents are safe.”
Although she spoke to her parents daily on the phone and eventually shared window and patio visits, Givens at one point went six months without seeing her parents due to the safety protocols established by HHSC. In September, she qualified to become an essential family caregiver, which allowed her to visit with her parents in their apartment once a week. “While two hours a week was not nearly enough, the value of being able to see them and fill the gaps in care that only a family member can provide was beneficial to them physically and emotionally,” Givens said.
Franklin Park was accepted into the federal vaccine distribution program for long term care communities. As avresult, the vaccine is paid for by the federal government, while the administration of the vaccine will be paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, or through a governmental fund for those without insurance. The vaccines became available to long term care facilities in San Antonio in late December.
“Unfortunately, the mental health of residents living in long-term facilities was placed in danger by isolation caused by COVID-19 restrictions,” Franklin Park Chief Operating Officer Kevin Wilbur said. “Once the majority of residents and team members are vaccinated, we should see dining venues, activities, and visitations begin to be restored to pre-COVID-19 levels. Restoring the right for family and friends to freely visit their loved ones will have an enormous impact on the happiness and overall health of each resident.”
“As soon as it becomes available, my parents and I will absolutely get the vaccine,” said Givens.
“It will be both a gift and a level of relief to get back to some normalcy, to get them out and about to visit their favorite restaurants. And mom will be most excited about a weekly shopping trip to her favorite boutique, Julian Gold.”