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Hamilton man calls on legislators to lift visitation restrictions at nursing homes

Nursing home infections, deaths surge amid lockdown measures
Posted at 10:44 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 10:54:13-05

HAMILTON, Ohio — As the coronavirus pandemic worsens and restrictions tighten, there are those desperate to see aging loved ones living in nursing homes. On Thursday, Scott Reynolds of Hamilton will take his plea to Ohio’s statehouse.

Because of the pandemic, Reynolds is only able to see his mother through the window of her facility. He hopes speaking before state legislators Thursday will open doors.

Back in March, Reynolds was in the middle of a visit with his mother when he learned he’d have to leave her facility because of new pandemic protocols. Chances to see her since then have been few and far between.

That’s why he’s advocating for Ohio House Bill 770, which would permit essential caregivers to enter these facilities.

“Which would allow a caregiver such as me, a family member, to go in a facility during a pandemic – COVID – to be with our loved one. That way they have some familiarity,” Reynolds said.

Scott Reynolds
Scott Reynolds hopes Ohio lawmakers will pass House Bill 770 so he can visit with his mother, who lives in a nursing home and now has COVID-19.

His mother has Alzheimer’s and now also has COVID-19. Reynolds said he would be willing to risk his safety to be with her in the end, a message his local representative invited him to share with lawmakers across the state.

“We need to figure out a solution to where we can still be connected to that family member, so that they don’t feel alone and they don’t feel abandoned,” Reynolds said.

Paula Smith works for the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio, which focuses specifically on seniors trying to remain independent in their homes instead of nursing homes. She said even they are feeling the strain of separation, something her agency is trying to relieve.

“We really became concerned, as this drug on, that seniors were feeling very isolated, they were lonely, they were feeling forgotten,” Smith said.

Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, said visitation is important for people’s health. His mother has dementia and is also in a nursing home. He says virtual visitation is safest for now but encourages facilities to allow compassionate care visits and shares in families’ heartache.

“We would love nothing better than to be able to do that, and it’s been crushing to our staff and our folks to have to pull back visitation just as it seemed like things were moving in the right direction,” he said. “We really would like to be able to open that up safely.”

Neither the Council on Aging, a nonprofit, nor the OHCA, a trade association, has endorsed HB 770.

That day may be months away, but Reynolds hopes just one person closest to a patient will be allowed to visit their loved one in a time of need. He said even if relief comes too late for his family, the bill could make a difference for others statewide.

“I know that I’ve done my best and I’ve done what I was supposed to do,” he said.

Reynolds is scheduled to speak in Columbus this Thursday at 11 a.m.