Health

COVID rules for care of the elderly under fire

Barbara and Christine Colucci long to take off their masks and kiss their 102-year-old mother, who has dementia and is living in a nursing home in Rochester, New York. He would like to have more than two people in his room at a time so that parents can be there as well.

“We don’t know how long it will take to be alive,” said Christine Colucci, “so it is, please, that she gave us this last chance with her in her last months on this earth to have that interaction.”

Pandemic restrictions are falling almost everywhere – except in many nursing homes in America. Rules aimed at protecting the nation’s most vulnerable from COVID-19 still apply even though 75% of nursing home residents are now vaccinated and infections and deaths have fallen.

Frustration ensued as families in the village visited their mothers and, on Father’s Day weekend, their fathers. Hugs and kisses are always discouraged or prohibited in some nursing homes. Residents eat in relative isolation and play bingo and do distance crafts. Visits are limited and should be kept short, and should be cut entirely if someone tests positive for coronavirus.

Family members and advocates question the need for such restrictions at this stage of the pandemic, when the risk is relatively low. They say the measures now only prolong the isolation of the elderly and accelerate their mental and physical decline.

“They protected her to death,” said Denise Gracely, whose 80-year-old mother, Marian Rauenzahn, lives in a nursing home in Topton, Pennsylvania.

Rauenzahn had COVID-19 and then lost part of a leg to gangrene, but Graceley said what he struggled with the most was forced loneliness, going from six-day-a-week visits to none.

Rauenzahn’s daughters have won the right to see her once a week, and the nursing home says it now plans to relax visitation rules for all residents by the end of June. But it hasn’t been enough, as far as Graceley is concerned.

“I think her dementia is advanced,” Graceley said. “She’s very lonely. She wants to get out of here so badly.”

The Pennsylvania long-term care ombudsman has received hundreds of complaints about visitation rules this year. Kim Shetler, a data specialist in the ombudman’s office, said COVID-19 restrictions on certain nursing homes go beyond state and federal requirements. Administrators have done what they think is necessary to keep people safe, he said, but families are understandably shocked.

“We have done our best to encourage people to get those visitation rights,” he said. “It’s their home. They have this right to come and go and have the visitors they choose.”

A recent survey by National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a defense group, found that time limits for visits remain trivial, from 15 minutes to two hours. Some facilities limit visiting hours to weekdays, making it difficult for people to work during the day, or limiting visits to once or twice a week.

Rauenzahn’s nursing home in Pennsylvania limited most residents to a single 30-minute visit every two weeks.

Advocates are also in discussions with federal guidance on how nursing homes treat new COVID-19 cases. The guide says most visits should be suspended for at least 14 days. Some family members, administrators and lawyers complain that the recommendation has led to frequent closures due to one or two cases.

“We’ve never had a really long, long period where we can have visitors,” said Jason Santiago, chief operating officer at The Manor on Seneca Hill in Oswego, New York. He said continued isolation is causing a heavy burden. “We’re going to do things that make more sense to these residents, make more sense to these families.”

While the federal government recently eased restrictions for residents of vaccinated nursing homes, New York State has not gone. Those who eat together in communal areas must be socially distanced, for example, and must be masked and 6 feet apart during activity, regardless of their vaccination status.

That makes crafts, bingo, music – “a lot of what caring home life is” – more difficult, said Elizabeth Weingast, vice president for clinical excellence at The New Jewish Home, which manages Elderly care facilities in and around New York City.

“We have prioritized vaccination of nursing home residents and it’s wonderful, but they haven’t gotten the same freedoms that you or I have now,” said Weingast, who recently published an opinion piece calling for a loosening of restrictions.

Its co-author, Karen Lipson of LeadingAge New York, which represents nonprofit nursing homes, said the rules “force this kind of love cleaning that is really, really challenging.”

With the virus infecting more than 650,000 long-term residents and killing more than 130,000 in the United States, nursing homes had a duty to take precautions when COVID-19 was out of control, said Nancy Kass, a health expert. publishes at Johns Hopkins University. But she said she was baffled by the continued heavy emphasis on security to the detriment of residents ’quality of life, as“ we are no longer in this state of affairs ”.

In Ohio, Bob Greve was desperate for a change of scenery after being cooped up in his Cincinnati nursing home for most of the past year. But the administrator would not allow a visit to her son’s home because of COVID-19 concerns – even if the two men were completely vaccinated.

Politics has brought Greve to a “breaking point,” according to his son, Mike Greve, who said his 89-year-old father called six, eight, even 10 times a day out of boredom and frustration and constantly talked about fate. .

Mike Greve said he urged the care home administrator to raid outside, only to be told, “If I let you take your father, I’ll leave it to everyone else.” Greve said the administrator was concerned about residents reporting COVID-19 with them.

The administrator did not return phone messages and emails from The Associated Press. A day after AP asked for comments, Greve said the administrator called him into the office, offered to allow the father a visit, and said the policy would change for everyone else as well.

Father and son spent a glorious afternoon sunbathing in Greve’s house, where his father saw a deer.

“He said, ‘Hallelujah,’ I don’t know how many times, ‘” Greve said. “He said, ‘I don’t know how you put me out, but I’m so glad I can cry.’


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