Texas Senate Passes Bill to Allow ‘Essential Caregivers' Access to Long-Term Care Facilities Even in a Pandemic

Bill passes the Senate and heads to the House Thursday for further consideration

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The Texas Senate passed SB 25 Wednesday, a proposal that requires nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to allow at least one "essential caregiver" two hours a day to visit.

Like many Americans, Mary Nichols went months without seeing her mother during the pandemic. Nichols' mother has Alzheimer’s disease and is in a long-term care facility that didn't allow visitation to protect the health of residents.

“Two hundred and two days I went without seeing her after seeing her almost every day for the last several years that she was in skilled nursing,” said Nichols.

Nichols began Texas Caregivers for Compromise and is now watching what happens in the Texas Legislature with the passing of SB 25.

The bill basically guarantees the right to visits from family members and that, during times like the most recent pandemic, identified "essential caregivers" would still have access to family members.

"It is the intent of the legislature to ensure that residents of long-term care facilities and other residences have a guaranteed right to visitation by family members, friends, caregivers, and other individuals. The legislature expects facilities and program providers to ensure that the guaranteed visitation rights are available to residents every day of each year, consistent with existing resident rights. The legislature intends for facilities and program providers to temporarily limit a resident's guaranteed visitation rights to in-person visitation by essential caregivers only during a declared public health emergency."

One of the bill's authors, Sen. Lois Kohlkorst (R-Brenham, District 18) got emotional on the Senate floor, talking about when her mother was in a care facility, recounting how someone in the family was there every day.

“I can not imagine what it would have been like during this pandemic, “ said Kolkhorst.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and was presented to the House on Thursday where there are also several skilled nursing-related bills being considered.

Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney, District 70) is working on the House bills. He lost a friend who was in a memory care facility during the pandemic.

“What I found out was during that same time frame, right there afterward, constituents and people all over the state were facing the very same thing.  We began to hear from them, just heartbreaking stories about how their loved one was declining, or even passing away because of the lack of interaction,” said Sanford.

A bill must pass both the Texas House and Senate before it can go to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to be signed.

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