Voters to decide on constitutional right to visit loved ones in nursing homes

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — For months during the pandemic, nursing homes residents were not allowed to have visitors. However, a new state constitutional amendment is looking to change that. 

Proposition six would allow residents of nursing homes to designate an essential caregiver that cannot be denied visitation to them no matter the circumstances.

Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said keeping residents of nursing homes separated from their family members during the pandemic was detrimental to their well-being.

“This separation from having a loved one, or a trusted friend or family member at your bedside, is terrible. terrible, terrible, terrible,” Castillo said.

The pandemic prevented families of nursing home residents from seeing their loved ones, and for residents, the feeling of isolation made things worse. 

“Many of us have our elderly in nursing homes,” said Rick Barrera, an attorney in Harlingen. “There was problems getting people into those nursing homes, family members. Often people were completely shut out.”

Proposition six would ensure residents in nursing homes don’t have to deal with that sort of isolation in the future.

“One person would be designated per the family that would have access as a caregiver that could not be denied access by the nursing homes,” Barrera said.

Legal and health experts agree stopping visitation to nursing homes was important at the start of the pandemic because the elderly were most vulnerable. 

However, should proposition six pass- one person would be allowed to visit their loved one in a nursing home no matter what, even in the event of another pandemic.

“They have a heavy burden of protection of the elderly, so pandemic or no pandemic, they have a right to exclude. If this proposition passes, that right is very much mitigated,” Barrera said.

While there is concern about spreading disease Dr. Castillo said if visiting can be done safely, it should be allowed.

“The best thing you can have if you’re in a healthcare environment is a friend or family or trusted loved one at your bedside at all times, if possible,” he said.

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