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AARP fights to bring visitation back to nursing homes

Luann and David Flammia haven’t seen their mother in five months.

“Being in memory care we know that we only have so much time before she forgets who we are, so, really, it’s like were having time stolen from us because it’s been almost six months, five months,” David said.

Their mom is in a nursing home and, because of coronavirus and now with another spike in cases, they haven’t been able to visit her in person in five months because of restrictions.

“We haven’t since her birthday,” Luann said. And that’s the last time we caught up with the Flammia family, for their mother’s 90th birthday in May.

The staff at the nursing home has been allowing families to FaceTime residents.” American house has been good about FaceTiming, so we do get to see my mom and chat with her a little bit every week,” Luann said.

But nothing can replace face-to-face interaction.

That’s why AARP, the largest advocacy group in the U.S., is fighting for visitation for older adults in long-term care facilities.

But, in the midst of a pandemic, that’s hard to do. But not letting visitors in is taking a toll on the relationships between family members.

“Only when it is safe for residents, for the family members and for other third parties who come and go from facilities including staff,” said Jack McRay, the advocacy manager for AARP, about when it’ll be a good idea to let families see one another.

McRay also has some suggestions about what could speed up the process of letting visitors back into long-term care facilities, including PPE and rapid testing. “Rapid testing, when and if it should become available, we believe that long-term care facilities want to be the first recipients along with hospitals and other healthcare facilities,” he said.

Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care, says they’ve been asking the governor for months for cost-effective solutions.

“They run about $4500-$6000 to purchase a machine itself, so that’s not too expensive,” Lee said.

And, while the Flammias are happy these advocacy groups are brainstorming ideas for better testing, they’re also hoping for more accuracy in the process. “If their tests were 100% accurate I would say yes, but they’re not,” David said .

But, until the safety of seniors, their families and staff is ensured, visitors will just have to continue communicating via FaceTime or through the window.

So far, the governor’s office has not responded to our request for details on their response to AARP’s proposal.

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
Writer:Drew Hill
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