5 smart, SAFE ways to end the lockdown at long-term care facilities

by Beth Graham
end the lockdown at long-term care facilities

My mom is in a long-term care facility. My brothers and I are used to seeing her virtually every day. I have not seen her since February. This pandemic is real. It’s serious. And yes, residents of these facilities are at the greatest risk.  But there are some smart, safe ways to end the lockdown at long-term care facilities and allow us to see our loved ones.

Residents of these facilities may not understand why their loved ones can’t come see them. I’ve personally heard stories of residents who quit eating due to depression and loneliness. Many of their brains are unable to process the fact that we have a pandemic. Some may feel as though they’re being punished. My own mom has aphasia, an inability to communicate, so human touch and eye contact is, WAS, our form of communication and showing love. She does not feel our love when we talk to her through a sun-glared window on a noisy street. I cook for her several days a week in hopes that I can connect with her through food.

This is Sadie, my mom’s dog. She doesn’t understand either.

Listen, I would certainly not do anything to endanger my mother’s life or risk her contracting COVID-19. But I do know that there are some common sense solutions to end the lockdown at long-term care facilities. I don’t want to get into politics and I realize that the administrators at these facilities are simply following the mandates. I have seen data that indicates that more of the aides and staff in these facilities have tested positive for the virus than actual residents. I mean, these aides are living their lives when they’re not at work, dropping kids at daycare, grocery shopping, and hugging their spouses. Many work two jobs. Certainly, some are more cautious than others. 

My mom

I, on the other hand, have no outside responsibilities in my life that would preclude me from a 100% quarantine in my own home. So my suggestions are just that – my personal thoughts on sensible solutions that could end the lockdown at long-term care facilities and allow me to see my mom again. Some facilities are already figuring it out on their own. Here are the steps I would be willing to take to see my mom, and I’m guessing many others with loved ones in these facilities would commit to the same. 

  1. Testing – I am all for more, and more accurate, testing. I would be willing to be tested weekly (it’s not a pleasant test) and quarantine myself 100% between the time I get my results (obtaining quicker results needs to be a mandate) and the time I see my mother. I would be willing to sign a sworn statement that I had quarantined during this period. 
  2. The “One” rule – this is my own proposal. One hour. Once a week. One family member at a time. Believe me, despite seeing my mom daily for two years prior to the pandemic, I would gladly agree to seeing her in person just one hour per week. 
  3. Outdoor visits – Many health experts believe that your risk of contracting the virus is lower outdoors than indoors. This is just common sense. I would suggest that distancing is still important, even outdoors. Put two chairs, 10 feet apart, in an open space. My mother could see my eyes and I could see her facial expressions, without the barrier of a screen and window. 
  4. PPE – I wear a mask every time I leave my home. I wear them for window visits with my mom. I would certainly wear one when visiting her outdoors. Heck, I’d wear a HAZMAT suit if it was required.
  5. No physical contact whatsoever – As much as I want to hug my mom, I realize that this is not a smart move right now. Just seeing her face-to-face without a screen and the glare of the sun would be a dramatic improvement. Most of these facilities are already woefully understaffed so monitoring visits is probably not an option but would certainly serve as an additional level of oversight. 

None of these solutions are rocket science, and no single one is sufficient. They should all be deployed together. I’ve written and tweeted to legislators but my words have fallen on deaf ears. Again, I would never want to endanger my mom’s health or that of other residents. But there needs to be a conversation about the dangers and risks of continuing this lockdown. Like so much we’re dealing with today, it comes down to personal responsibility.

You may have seen the news about Mary Shannon, a woman in my town who got a job as a dishwasher in her husband’s assisted living facility just so she could see him. I would gladly do the same but I think this illustrates that there are some creative solutions if we can all just have a civil, responsible conversation and acknowledge the importance of the mental health of our loved ones in assisted living facilities. Incidentally, Mary has created a Facebook movement called Caregivers for Compromise with pages for each individual state if you are barred from seeing a loved one and want to be part of the solution.

That’s just my two cents. I would do virtually anything to see my mom. It’s time to have a conversation about safe, smart, workable solutions.

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