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Many Nursing-Home Residents Ready for In-Person Visits

Fewer than 1% of Americans live in nursing homes, yet they account for more than 44% of coronavirus deaths. (Pxhere)
Fewer than 1% of Americans live in nursing homes, yet they account for more than 44% of coronavirus deaths. (Pxhere)
August 6, 2020

DENVER -- As Congress struggles to agree on terms for additional coronavirus aid, Bob Murphy, state director for AARP Colorado, said friends and families don't have to wait to give nursing-home residents some much-needed relief.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has cleared the way for institutions to allow in-person visitation, and after spending months alone in their rooms on lockdown, older Americans could use some company.

Murphy noted social isolation was a chronic problem even before the pandemic.

"And now, you layer on that the fact that you not only could not see loved ones, but you could not really even share time and space with friends you might have within the walls of the residential care facility," Murphy said.

AARP is urging Congress to protect nursing-home residents through regular testing and adequate personal protective equipment, increased transparency, reporting new infections, and ensuring adequate staffing, oversight and access to advocates or long-term care ombudsmen.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said no new aid package would be passed unless it includes sweeping immunity for businesses for COVID-related claims.

So far more than 62,000 nursing-home and long-term care residents and staff, including 708 in Colorado, have died from COVID-19.

Fewer than 1% of Americans live in nursing homes, yet they account for more than 44% of coronavirus deaths. Murphy does not believe giving nursing homes or other facilities blanket immunity is in the best interest of residents or staff.

"And I'm not speaking about any operator in particular, but across the country there are just too many documented examples of bad operators that should not receive blanket immunity," Murphy said.

He said because each facility's visitation policies are different, it's important to call ahead. Some might require health checks, reservations or outside visits.

And Murphy said families should also ask what nursing homes are doing to make residents and staff safe.

When you do visit friends and loved ones, Murphy said remember to follow general precautions: Wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands.

Disclosure: AARP Colorado contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO