How a nursing home is coming back from COVID-19

Emily paulin

Connor Comer shows his great-grandmother, Frieda Waterson, a photo of him and his girlfriend.

But for some families, masks are more obstructive than smiles.

When Connie Reimer learned that she was now allowed to sit next to her 99-year-old mother, Doris “Dode” Voss, during their visits to the mansion, she asked the staff to dust off the family photo album. de Voss, planning to help him. the mother flips through the pages. Reimer thought it might trigger memories for his mother, who suffers from dementia. But Voss, confused and panicked by his mask, didn’t want to keep it.

“I couldn’t hold her hand or give her a hug because she wouldn’t be wearing the mask, Reimer said. “She doesn’t understand why it goes together.”

Many families face the same problem, as more than a third of nursing home residents suffer from severe cognitive impairment and another quarter suffer from moderate cognitive impairment, according to a 2015 CMS report.

To continue seeing each other, Reimer and Voss had to move to one of the facility’s visitor booths, which uses clear plexiglass dividers to separate residents and visitors. Voss didn’t have to wear his mask, but hearing his daughter through the wall was difficult. Reimer eventually gave up on the conversation and instead played soothing music to his mother on her phone for their remaining time.

“It was very frustrating,” Reimer said. “And we’re both vaccinated now, so it would be nice if we could just have a nice visit without all of that.”

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidelines for the general population, giving fully vaccinated people the go-ahead to unmask other fully vaccinated people inside, CMS has not issued the same recommendation to retirement homes. Instead, he continues to list face covers and masks as a core principle of COVID-19 infection prevention that “must be observed at all times.”

“People in healthcare settings, especially nursing homes, are generally more susceptible to serious COVID-19 infections,” a CMS spokesperson told AARP, “and as a result, greater caution is often warranted. “

Reimer hopes those rules will be relaxed soon. “She’s in decline,” she said of her mother, noting that Voss had lost weight and mobility during the lockdowns. His dementia also worsened. “The sooner I can be with her, the better.”

Undermined and skeptical

Staff at Weston County Manor work hard to keep residents ‘spirits up, decorating walls and doors with colorful collages and playing nostalgic’ 60s music over the dining room speakers. And they know how to smile with their eyes above their masks.

“We had to stay strong for our residents,” said Tolley, the director of activities. “For a year we were all they had.”

But staff and residents alike are eager to receive relief. COVID-19 has triggered increased infection control measures for the 1.6 million nursing home workers across the country: additional screening, testing, disinfection, training, reporting, planning, care and more. When outbreaks have occurred in homes and infected or exposed staff members are not allowed to work, this has exacerbated staff shortages. Other staff members had to work overtime in an environment that threatened their own health. Many did so on minimum wage and without benefits like sick leave.

“There were so many times the exhaustion was so real,” said Tolley, recalling one day in October when all three of his activities team were away due to infection or exposure. to COVID-19. cried and cried.

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