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Letter: In nursing homes, isolation is as deadly as COVID-19. Let’s reopen safely

A resident watches nurses leaving the Vilanova nursing home in Corbas, near Lyon, central France, Monday, May 4, 2020.
Laurent Cipriani, Associated Press

I am writing due to the situation with how COVID-19 is impacting our loved ones residing in nursing homes during this difficult time. At the beginning of the pandemic, all that were considered “nonessential” visitors were restricted from entering nursing homes. This meant that unless you were a medical professional, you were unable to enter the building to visit a person living there.

While limiting the spread of COVID-19 is imperative, it is also important to note the effect these strict restrictions have had on the people residing in these nursing homes. One study suggests that COVID-19 has indirectly contributed to thousands of illnesses and deaths across the country due to extreme isolation and loneliness.

In another sorrowing study, it was found that over 134,000 people died from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related disorders since the pandemic began. This is staggering because it is nearly 13,000 more cases than would have been expected over a typical year.

With proper guidelines surrounding where visitors may be allowed on the premises, enforcing proper personal protective equipment coverings such as masks, gloves, gowns, etc., hand-washing and/or sanitization protocols, and social distancing measures, it is possible to continue allowing monitored visitations in these facilities.

Since September, when newer policies have been enacted to allow for monitored and strictly guided visitations, many facilities have been able to show it is possible to allow for crucial visitation between families to resume while still keeping the virus at bay. Many people rely on their families for needed love, support and mental health care in order to live a healthy meaningful life. Without them, many lose the will to live. It is crucial we continue supporting the needs of our elderly community members in remembrance for how they once supported and cared for us.

Katelyn Rager

Salt Lake City