Letter: Too many of the elderly suffered lonely deaths

Posted 6/17/21

Thank you to all the heroic CNAs, nurses and support staff at all long-term care facilities for working through this wretched COVID pandemic. Many of us would have been lost without …

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Letter: Too many of the elderly suffered lonely deaths

Posted

Thank you to all the heroic CNAs, nurses and support staff at all long-term care facilities for working through this wretched COVID pandemic. Many of us would have been lost without you.

And now as the crisis eases, I’d like to firmly implant into readers’ consciousness the image of thousands of nursing home residents across Rhode Island suffering in confused isolation for months on end during and still now as the pandemic subsides. After an exhaustive battle, overlapping government agencies, and subsequently the exceedingly reluctant nursing home industry, have only recently eased visitation restrictions to a more commensurate level, months after all residents and most of their potential visitors had been vaccinated.

Sadly, far too many nursing home residents died in the interim, many not from COVID but from simple miserable isolation. Imagine the cognitively impaired spending the last months of their lives wondering why their families had abandoned them, with no understanding of the pandemic. Industry brass will say their hands were tied by government regulations, but the ugly truth that so many nurses and CNA’s in the field will tell you is that their bosses, albeit working through a horrible ordeal, did enjoy the one perk of not having pesky family members poking around checking on the care of their loved ones.

For this convenience, the visitation suspension was prolonged long after medical science and common sense deemed it necessary. And more residents died horrific, lonely deaths.

What’s to prevent this from happening again? How about every year when the flu or norovirus strikes one patient in a long-term care facility they just ban families for let’s say three months every winter? Sound good? Why not? It worked this time long after the doctors told us it was no longer necessary.  Effectively, we protected these residents to death.

As the Rhode Island representative for the national organization Essential Caregivers Coalition, I’d urge those of you for whom this paints a grim picture to contact your state representatives and urge passage of their bill #5543, sponsored by Rep June Speakman, which would ensure long-term care residents have access to a family or friend “essential caregiver” who can continue to provide care and companionship, following the same necessary health precautions taken by staff.

Further, our federal delegation has a similar bill just introduced, HR 3733. Pplease feel free to share your thoughts on this movement with your U.S. representative and senators. As someone who has witnessed the isolation first hand, I assure you, this vulnerable population needs our voice.

And for those who have missed their loved ones on the inside, though your facility may not send you an emblazoned invitation to come back in and see your mom, dad, grandma or grandad, it’s okay now to head over there and knock on the door. The bosses will welcome you with open arms to reconnect with your family.

Charlie Galligan
Bristol

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