Nursing homes have been the focus of the coronavirus crisis since the onset of the pandemic. They are where the most vulnerable reside, and in close proximity. The extremely contagious virus is a particular threat to the elderly and infirm, and protecting residents of nursing homes has been among the pandemic’s most pressing challenges.
That has meant the particularly unsettling measure of preventing visits, limiting the type of support from loved ones that often makes a huge difference for nursing home residents. For a long time those visits, if they took place at all, had to take place outdoors. In-person visits were stopped in mid-March, with outdoor visitation allowed beginning on June 12.
Gov. Ned Lamont called it “one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as governor.” Yet the governor was convinced of the necessity because the virus outbreak was “impacting the lives of so many people in our senior population.”
Now that restriction has been lifted, following the directive from the national Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requiring nursing homes to come up with plans for indoor visitations.
It allows for visits “under specific conditions,” said the state’s acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford. “I urge nursing homes to work closely with family members to arrange for the type of visitation that is most appropriate for each resident’s physical, mental and psychosocial well-being,” she said.
Nursing homes have been preparing for the eventuality, and lifting the indoor ban is especially welcome considering the restrictions the approaching colder months would have put on outdoor visits.
It makes a difference. “They’re going to be more relaxed, less anxious,” said Nicholas Nicholson, a professor of nursing at Quinnipiac University who researches isolation in seniors. “By not allowing social connections you’re really inhibiting their recovery quite substantially,” he told the Record-Journal.
The safe implementation of visits is now the focus, a welcome development in the response to a global crisis.