It has been three months since COVID-19 became a topic of daily conversation here in the Mid-South.
Everyone has faced challenges or missed out on something they used to do, but for the families of patients at long term healthcare facilities, the new normal is particularly painful.
They aren’t allowed to see their loved ones at all.
Many Alzheimer’s patients don’t understand there is a virus.
In their moments of clarity, or for those whose disease hasn’t progressed, they’re left wondering, what happened to my family?
Once a week at Sycamore Place Alzheimer’s Special Care in Memphis, one daughter visits her mother.
It’s the only interaction Terry Balton can have with her mother, Peggy, anymore.
No visitors are allowed at Tennessee assisted living facilities due to COVID-19.
“Not being able to see them since March has been really, really tough,” she said. “All of them. It is not just my mom. It’s everybody.”
Balton said the only thing keeping her going is knowing her mother is being well taken care of.
“You can’t hug her,” Balton said. “I can see her through this window, but I can’t physically hug her. That just kills me.”
The safety of these residents, unable to protect themselves is what concerns families like Balton’s.
Earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released guidance for visitation to continue at facilities like Peggy’s, which includes weekly staff COVID-19 testing, and no new cases.
“I don’t want to be the one that would give it to her,” she said. “I would feel terrible if I had it, didn’t know it, walked in there and spread it throughout the community.”
However, in Shelby County, several clusters of COVID-19 have happened at assisted living facilities.
That’s why the Alzheimer’s Foundation is currently pushing the governor and state leadership to prioritize PPE access for long term care at the same level as hospitals.
“I think they’ve needed help a long time,” Balton said. “The healthcare needs some reworking. These folks made this country. That’s why I’m here.”
The Alzheimer’s Association sent us the following statement:
“We know this has been a very difficult time for everyone, especially caregivers and other family who have been able to see their loved ones in person. The Alzheimer’s Association would like families to be reunited when it is safe, which is why we’ve sounded the alarm and released policy recommendations to address the long-term care crisis. The Alzheimer’s Association believes visitors are appropriate only when the long-term care community has the capability to employ rapid testing for all staff, visitors, and residents, and adequate and consistent access to PPE for all staff. We are encouraged by the Governor’s commitment to safety in these visitation guidelines and encourage further action to protect residents of long-term care facilities.”
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