Nursing homes struggling to balance fighting loneliness and COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 11:13 PM, Jul 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 11:43:12-04

CINCINNATI — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spike in many areas throughout the United States, nursing homes have found themselves between a rock and a hard place: Battling residents' loneliness, while still attempting to keep COVID-19 out of their facilities.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine allowed assisted-living facilities to begin outdoor visitation in June, and nursing homes are slated to follow suit on July 20, but as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, many nursing homes are concerned.

"Each and every nursing home in the state has to consider where they’re located. They have to balance the desires of reuniting families with the safety of all of our residents," said Laura Lamb, president and CEO of Episcopal Retirement Services.

Episcopal Retirement and Deupree House are working on taking the changes slowly, to make sure they can host visitations safely before allowing them again. In the meantime, many virtual avenues for visitation, and window visits, have been encouraged to help battle any loneliness residents may be feeling.

Residents at Villa Georgetown in Brown County have provided residents with a new virtual therapy program to stay active and healthy, along with providing a Fourth of July parade to give families the chance to celebrate with loved ones from a distance.

"Keeping our families connected with their loved ones here has been vital in not only keeping their psychosocial well-being as up as we can, but I think in many degrees keeping them alive," said Daniel Wylie, executive director of Villa Georgetown.

Each individual nursing home will be able to make its own determination as to when it is safe to begin allowing outdoor visitations after July 20. Episcopal Retirement Services is encouraging the public to be diligent about social distancing and wearing masks to help get the pandemic under control. Residents like Ruth Ison are also anxious for that to happen.

"I just wish this dumb thing would be over pretty soon for the sake of a lot of people," said Isen, who lives at Episcopal Retirement Services. She said it's been difficult not being able to have her son and daughter over to visit, but she said she understands why it's important.

"Well, I would like to be where they are," she said. "But if it doesn't work that way, I don't want anybody to get sick over it."

Neither Episcopal Retirement nor Villa Georgetown have specific dates in mind yet for allowing in-person visits. Like many nursing homes, they're watching to see how the pandemic changes over time and are evaluating their plans day by day.