After a dark and lonely year, it seems like we’re almost through the worst of the pandemic. With the eligibility of the COVID-19 vaccines open to all US adults over the age of sixteen, we’re seeing an increasing percentage of citizens across the country becoming protected against the virus. A rekindled hope is spreading across the nation that we might be returning to a way of life resembling the normal we remember from more than a year ago.
During this pandemic, some of us have had the added stress of trying to deal with family living in nursing homes and not being able to see them. Now, with vaccines being given across the country, we might be able to reunite and check in regularly with loved ones who have been isolated in long-term care facilities.
Remember: Remain Safe
We might be eager, but it’s important to remember that we need to wait 2 weeks after our final dose of the vaccine before we are considered fully vaccinated. Even then, the CDC recommends we still follow some basic safety guidelines to minimize the risk to others. We should continue to wear a mask when indoors and in public, wash and sanitize our hands, and avoid crowds.
Some states are seeing a new rise in the number of COVID cases, despite the availability of the vaccines. Circumstances might not be right for everyone for in-person visits yet. Thankfully, technology allows us the opportunity to virtually visit with loved ones like never before.
Even these digital breaks from isolation can be a tremendous help in combating the health effects caused by the loneliness COVID restrictions have imposed upon us. The elderly and other nursing home residents are especially at risk for physical and mental health issues as a result of social isolation, including a 50% increased risk of dementia.
Sadly, many nursing homes don’t have the resources to allow regular contact between residents and their families, even over the phone. In some circumstances, people have had to endure multiple weeks without talking with their loved ones.
There have been numerous efforts across the nation by states and organizations to arrange better access to phones and video-conferencing tech for nursing home residents. Even recently, states have considered legislation that will require nursing homes to provide better access to this technology.
When we’re finally reunited, we need to remember that we’re still a caregiver. We should still wear a mask, wash our hands, use hand sanitizer regularly, and even socially distant in some cases.
In many cases, it’s been over a year since we’ve last been able to visit with family. This year has been a difficult time for everyone, and we’ve faced challenges that we never expected. States and facilities have done, and continue to do, their best to protect our loved ones.
Unfortunately, we need to face the reality that abuse and neglect can happen in nursing homes. No one has been able to escape the stress this pandemic has brought, but this doesn’t excuse any failings by those we entrusted to care for our loved ones.
If you feel your family in a nursing home has suffered during this isolation, due in part to the facility or caregivers, there are resources and organizations that can help. Our loved ones and families in nursing homes need us to remain vigilant to keep them safe and healthy.
As vaccines continue to sweep across the country, it seems as though the worst may be behind us, leading us to the road to recovery. It’s still important to remember to be safe and continue to take precautions when visiting your high-risk family members in nursing homes. Wait two weeks after your final dose of the vaccine until you’re fully vaccinated, continue to wear a mask when indoors and in public, wash and sanitize your hands, and avoid crowds.
The vaccines won’t eradicate COVID-19, and there will be portions of our society who won’t be able to receive them. It falls on all of us to remain diligent to minimize the risk of spread.