Nursing Facilities Open to the Public
As the United States attempts to re-open, nursing facilities have started to follow suit. Some are finally allowing visitors in order to lift the spirits of residents and their loved ones. Since the beginning of the pandemic, nursing homes have been completely off-limits to visitors. Now, however, those with a loved one in the facility can schedule a time to meet in the facility’s garden or patio, as long as they remain at least 6 feet apart. One or two visitors are permitted as long as they are wearing a mask. Last week, over 25 states had given the green light on visitors at nursing homes. A rise in COVID cases will, of course, impact how long this stays in effect and facilities do not have to open to the public simply because their state allows it. But for now, nursing facilities in many states are open to the public at their own discretion.
Experts warn that we should still be cautious, and perhaps even more worried than we were before. An estimated 40-45% of COVID deaths have occurred in senior living facilities. Family and friends of residents say they are willing to (cautiously) take the chance because elderly Americans are becoming more depressed as they remain isolated from the outside world. With very little human interaction, it is easy for older adults to take on a negative perspective. Attempting to keep their residents safe from the virus, it was hard for the many facilities to account for their staff coming and going each day, possibly being exposed in their homes or grocery stores. Many families argued that it defeated the purpose and the same risk lies among the staff as with guests. Some even speculate that their loved ones are dying “of broken hearts and neglect.” One facility in New Jersey, affected by the second-highest COVID numbers in the U.S., has completely arranged their outdoor area to accommodate residents and their families during a social distanced visit. While facilities do worry about the virus on the premises with people coming and going, a better mood is proven to lead to better health, so they’re not willing to risk keeping their residents isolated from their loved ones any longer. Most facilities are requiring a signed consent form stating that each visitor understands the risks they face by entering a medical facility. A new campaign, Visitation Saves Lives, has even begun in California in order to petition for more family visitation policies. Most people agree, a life of isolation is cruel and we should not be subjecting our elderly to it, if we can help it.
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