CHICAGO (CBS) — Seniors in nursing homes are on month six of being unable to have regular contact with family and friends, and their loved ones are concerned about the toll this isolation is taking on their health.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory found a group with a potential solution.
Before COVID-19, before face masks, before her family had to visit her from a window, Pauline Moran was enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
She’s survived COVID-19, she’s survived Alzheimer’s disease for the last six years; the only thing holding the 90-year-old back is isolation.
Her daughter, Monica, said she’s seen her Pauline’s health rapidly decline over the past six months
“I try to keep it together, but there are times when I do lose it,” she said. “She’s stuck in her room 24/7. I don’t think she ever leaves that room.”
Since COVID-19 rules went into effect at nursing homes, visiting means looking at one another through a window, and only outdoors, with rare exceptions
“It’s awful,” Monica said.
When they do have socially distanced visits, it’s not the same.
“It’s a lot to them, just to sit there and just hold their hands and just say, ‘Hey, mom, I’m here, I have not left you, and I’m not abandoning you.’ That’s going to be, mentally, what is worth it to them,” Monica said.
Dr. Anna Liggett, an assistant professor of geriatric medicine at Northwestern University, said isolation definitely has negative consequences on health.
“Especially the seniors, where pre-COVID one of our biggest recommendations would be socializing and getting that stimulus,” she said.
Without that interaction, “they tend to decline more rapidly,” Liggett said.
It’s a problem that Monica and thousands of others discuss in the Facebook group “Caregivers for Compromise – because isolation kills too!” This group is advocating that one or two family members can act as caregivers to reduce the isolation many seniors are experiencing.
“We’re willing to do anything,” Monica said, from wearing full PPE during visits to getting tested regularly.
Because, to Pauline, games of catch with her family, and just holding hands, “that would make a world of difference to her,” her daughter said.
So what will happen when the cold weather comes and outdoor visits won’t be possible? The Illinois Department of Public Health said they’re updating their nursing home guidelines to include visits based on a memo from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.