Time to let family back into nursing homes, NJ advocates say
Some long-term care facilities in parts of New Jersey have once again started allowing tightly controlled visitations after they were suspended last summer because of the pandemic.
But one group wants state officials to revisit and update the visitation directive.
Bill Borrelle, the founder of the Family Advocate Care Experience for Seniors, a group of more than a thousand relatives of residents in long-term care communities , said the current policy is based on the case count in the county where the long-term care facility is located, which he believes is extremely restrictive and fails to take into account that almost all long-term care residents, their caregivers, and many close family members have now received COVID vaccinations.
He said what they’re asking for is a new post-vaccination directive “that gives vaccinated residents the right to be with their families because they no longer are at risk of getting very sick, intubated, hospitalized or to die.”
He said immediate family members who have loved ones in long-term care facilities are not visitors, they are caregivers who "play a vital role."
“It’s an extra set of eyes,” he said. “It’s really everything you would imagine a family member might do that a staff member wouldn’t do.”
Borrelle said his 95-year-old mother is in an assisted living facility in South Jersey and has had problems with malfunctioning hearing aids. She’s confused, anxious and depressed and sleeps all the time because she is not able to see any family members.
He said he understands visitations were discontinued at the start of the pandemic to protect residents, but “isolation kills as well, so the need to return to care-giving for our loved ones is a matter of life and death.”
He said most care-giving family members are still not able to visit their loved ones, even if they’re vaccinated, which makes no sense.
“My mother lives in a facility where all but one of the residents is vaccinated, I have been vaccinated, I wear masks and PPE, yet nothing has changed,” he said.
To draw attention to the issue, and the one-year anniversary next Saturday of the lockdown in long-term care facilities preventing essential care and emotional support from family members, the group has scheduled a series of events starting Monday including a peaceful gathering in Trenton on March 12.
For more information you can visit the Facebook page "One Year, Two Shots, Now What?"