This week marks the one-year anniversary of families across the country being kept away from their loved ones in long-term care (LTC).
You might be thinking, “Aren’t visits allowed now that nearly all residents of LTC have been vaccinated?” Sadly, the answer is no.
First, we were told we had to wait until the “curve” was “flattened.” Then we were told we had to wait for the vaccine. Now we’re told we have to wait to see how effective vaccine really is. We have to wait until CMS (Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services) updates their guidance, which they have not done since September.
Unfortunately, for many residents of LTC, time is running out. They don’t have many days left to wait. And tragically, many have already left us — depressed, confused, and alone, wondering where their family has been.
While much of the country begins to return to “normal,” we can choose what level of risk we take on, exercising our rights of personal freedom. Residents of LTC have NO choices. Their federally protected rights to make decisions regarding their own healthcare, to see visitors whenever and wherever they want have been trampled and disregarded just because they have the misfortune of having to live in a congregate facility during a declared emergency.
Now these residents are losing the will to live, some dying from failure to thrive. They want to hug their loved ones and spend time with those they cherish in whatever time they have left.
We were right to put restrictions in place at the beginning of the pandemic when we knew little about the virus and we were trying to protect the most vulnerable. But plastic hug tunnels and plexiglass visiting stations are no substitute for the personal, caring touch of a loved one. And virtual visits or phone calls are no substitute for the in-person oversight of one’s physical care.
The activities that facility staff are creating to try to keep residents engaged and entertained are no substitute for sitting with family members and reminiscing about days gone by, enjoying those memories together that define who they are and keep them connected to a mind that is likely fading away. It’s time for our nursing homes and long-term care facilities to open up.
One year later, we are now protecting them to death. Isolation kills too.
Written by Marla Carter
Community advocate for residents of long term care