Now that the COVID-19 vaccination is beginning to reach elderly communities in long-term care facilities, the million-dollar question is ‘when can I visit my loved ones?’ Hope is certainly on the horizon, but medical experts and geriatricians warn that we’re not out of the weeds yet.
In more ways than one, elderly Americans have overcome insurmountable obstacles since March. The pandemic has disproportionately affected Americans 65 and older, as more than 35% of deaths are linked to long-term care facilities. Chronic loneliness has also plagued nursing homes. Residents reside in their rooms with few visitors from the outside world.
Almost universally, visits from friends and family are integral to the long-term health of elderly people, particularly for dementia patients who rely on routines and familiar faces. Studies have found that social isolation increases physical and mental deterioration, even connecting loneliness to increased odds of an early death.
Despite the need for interaction, it is likely that care facilities will retain a stringent visitor policy for the foreseeable future, meaning policies will remain mostly unchanged.
First and foremost, medical experts recommend that all residents and staff be vaccinated, as it is the swiftest path to normalcy. But even with inoculations, it is likely that visitors will need to continue providing a negative test result or vaccine verification, while also adhering to mask requirements. Of course, these policies vary from state to state and facility to facility, but the overarching guidelines from the federal government and experts will be the same.
While not much will change soon, the long-term outlook is promising. Assuming that vaccinations continue to be administered, it is likely for nursing homes to slowly relax their restrictions. The first step may be expanding the list of approved visitors to include immunized relatives and friends – the companions that are essential for sustained health.
For now, it is important to err on the side of caution and protection and keep our distance just a little bit longer.
Sources and further reading:
Now That Grandma Has Been Vaccinated, May I Visit Her?
Nursing Home Patients Are Dying of Loneliness