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Find A Safe Way To Have Nursing Home Visits

There has been a lot of press recently about relatives being unable to visit their family members who are in nursing homes during this time of COVID-19. Much of the discourse revolves around how much people miss their parents or grandparents whom they have been unable to visit.

To my mind, attention should actually be more focused on those who are confined in the nursing homes. They desperately need to have this family interaction. Being alone, especially if you are dying, is a terrible thing.

The restrictions on visits in nursing homes is understandable because the elderly are the most vulnerable to the disease, and if COVID gets inside a facility it can spread rapidly.

I have a cousin and her husband who live in an assisted care facility near Chicago. They have been very fortunate in that there have, as yet, been no infections within that facility. Yet, they miss terribly the periodic visits they used to enjoy with their three sons. I try to stay in touch with them by phone.

Their facility has found a way to test caregivers coming into the building, and still keep people safe. It would seem to me that there should be a way to test and evaluate family members so that they too could come to see their siblings, parents or grandparents.

For a starter, perhaps there could be a designated space or area in these health facilities where extra precautions could be taken requiring distancing and masks, where people could actually see and interact with each other. It could be separated from the housing or residential areas, and residents could be taken there to meet with family members.

Those visiting would need to be tested or at least be checked for any COVID related symptoms before entering. Visits would be scheduled so that patients and loved ones could meet in a private setting, and the number of simultaneous visits would be limited as to space available within the facility.

As one in that senior age group which is susceptible to COVID infection, my greatest fear has not been in dying from the disease. What worries me most is becoming infected and then becoming isolated from my family and friends. As the song by Joe Diffie goes, “I ain’t afraid of dyin’.” That doesn’t worry me. It is the thought of dying alone without the presence and support of loved ones which petrifies me.

When Medicaid was created in the 1960’s, it was lauded as a victory for senior citizens. Sick and old people would now have a place to receive proper care without regard to financial ability. It was in many ways an advancement from the days when there was no social safety net for the elderly.

However, no matter how nice a health care facility is, in times like this it can become like a prison. Few can come in, and no one can get out. The sooner we can find a safe way for residents in these facilities to see and visit their loved ones, the better off we will all be.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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