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Elderly Alaskans living in Alaska Pioneer Homes have been deprived of seeing family and friends since March due to COVID-19 concerns. This is changing in some locations.

On July 14, Alaska Pioneer Homes, with locations in Fairbanks, Palmer, Anchorage, Ketchikan and Juneau, released its plans to begin loosening restrictions on visitors. It said the decision to ban visitors in the spring was difficult and that “maintaining contact with loved ones is important to the emotional and mental health of our residents.”

“Taking this action now can help reduce feelings of loneliness, helplessness and boredom that elders are experiencing.”

According to the Alaska Pioneer Homes website, their average resident is 87 years old and has lived in Alaska for more than four decades.

The notice said that residents have used digital means of keeping in touch but that, “this long period of separation has been hard on residents and family members alike.”

“In order to maintain quality of life for our elders, and in consultation with the Alaska Division of Public Health and the Section of Epidemiology, limited family visitation is being resumed in a controlled environment at each home,” the announcement states. “Taking this action now can help reduce feelings of loneliness, helplessness and boredom that elders are experiencing.”

As of July 14, all residents and staff members in the five Alaska Pioneer Homes have tested negative for the virus. Each home can now decide on whether to implement a visitation plan.

The Anchorage Pioneer Home is choosing not to open at this time and the one in Fairbanks, which began visits last week, has ceased due to rising infections in the city.

As visitations resume in other areas, each facility will provide schedules and designated areas which will be disinfected between visits. Depending on how many people wish to make visits, the time and frequency may be limited to allow for more visitors. All visitors will be required to maintain six feet of distance between themselves, residents and other visitors while wearing a face covering at all times in the home. Additionally, all staff will be tested every two weeks and any resident or staff member who has symptoms will be tested immediately.

“If at any time a positive test result is identified, all visits will temporarily stop so the home can focus on infection control,” the statement notes.

For more information, contact individual Pioneer Homes regarding their visitation protocol. Click here for more information.

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Alaska Pioneer Homes to allow limited family visits for struggling seniors

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.