By Aimee Knight, AARP HOUSTON
Before Pat Smith fell, she was a relatively active and self-sufficient 82-year-old. She cleaned the house, she did the laundry and she cooked meals for herself and her husband. But an unfortunate injury and a dementia diagnosis prompted their move to an Abilene assisted living facility in early 2019.
Seven months later, her life irrevocably changed: her husband of 64 years died, and Pat was left reckoning with feelings of loneliness, depression, and grief.
Then the pandemic hit — and the virus’ onslaught turned a bad situation worse.
“Not being able to see her face-to-face on a daily basis makes it almost like torture,” said Patty Smith, Pat’s daughter-in-law. “It’s very difficult. It’s just really hard.”
When the anniversary of her husband’s death rolled around this July, Pat’s facility was under lockdown, so her family could only comfort her through a window. With in-person visits prohibited, Patty suspects the staff is stretched thin, scrambling to provide care which would otherwise be the families’ responsibility. Infrequent communication and Pat’s deteriorating cognition make it extremely difficult to assess her mother-in-law’s physical and emotional wellbeing, Patty said.
Sadly, Pat’s is just one story of many.
Residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities are proving to be particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. The first U.S. outbreak of coronavirus occurred more than five months ago — in a nursing home ¬– but the death toll continues to mount without sufficient action from our elected officials in Washington.
AARP is fighting for residents of long-term care facilities. AARP has called for enactment of a bipartisan five-point plan to protect nursing home residents and staff by providing adequate PPE and regular testing, creating more transparency, requiring access for virtual visitation, improving staffing and oversight, and stopping attempts to provide blanket immunity for long-term care facilities who fail to protect residents and staff.
Nationally, more than 68,000 nursing homes and other long-term care facility residents and staff have already died from COVID-19. In Texas, as of Aug 21, assisted living facilities have seen 2,329 COVID-19 cases and 401 resident fatalities, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.