In their zeal to protect our vulnerable aged from COVID-19, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and public health services have left our elderly now open to the deleterious effects of progressive depression, anxiety and increased physical disabilities. They have been locked in their apartments for 12-plus weeks. Meals are brought to them and they are checked on often, but these constant intrusions are an invasion on the privacy many of these people sought.
While they may be receiving good health care, the families who love them cannot go visit them and assure them of their existence and of the love they have for them, other than by phone or internet. This is not possible for people like my mom, who cannot see and who is extremely hard of hearing. Additionally, the caregivers do not know the subtleties of when my mom may be getting an infection or understand when she cannot find something, what it really is she is looking for. These are things only a family member can pick up on. These people, essentially, have been prisoners in their own apartments, where they pay to live.
While we initially supported this need to protect our elderly, we now believe this has gone on too long and is no longer healthy for any one of our elderly. Our elderly 96-year-old mother has become more confused, forgetful and is now experiencing more paranoia as a result of the continued intrusions in her room and can no longer stand on her own due to this prolonged isolation. She is experiencing additional new health issues as a result of this stress as well.
While they now allow residents to go out into the community, our mother is so weak it is difficult to get her in and out of a vehicle and she sleeps most of the time while out. I feel so bad for the residents who cannot go out for a day. They are still imprisoned. The residents still do not eat in the dining room but do small group activities. Fact is, they weren’t going to get sick from being around each other as they never went anywhere and had no visitors. If they got sick, it would have been because of the employees. Easy enough to track. Going out into the community would seem to be a greater risk of exposure than allowing me into my mom’s apartment, but this is not allowed. Policy, no legal law, will not allow it. They are afraid of being cited by Arizona government, when even our own governor and his people do not adhere to wearing masks and social distancing, as public health states we should. But he keeps our elderly locked away from their loved ones. This is false imprisonment.
The dangerous consequences to our vulnerable elderly are very real and it is not just from COVID-19. There are ways of allowing pre-assigned family visits with the residents in their homes. I have never seen a glut of family visitors in the facility at any time in the year my mother has lived there. As a matter of fact, it violates their constitutional rights to not allow them to have visits, considering they pay for that home. As a medical professional of 50-plus years, I strongly believe we need to behave in adult fashion and out of respect for each other while dealing with this nasty virus, by social distancing and wearing masks and, as we should always have been doing, washing our hands. However, keeping our elderly locked away is not the answer to protecting them. We are making them sicker and draining their reason for living. Human contact is essential to human behavior.
Yesterday I tried to access the assisted living facility where my mother pays rent to live. I wanted to be present for her visit with her primary care provider appointment. I have medical power of attorney, authorized to make medical decisions for her. I was denied. I called the police. Because the facility is considered a private facility they could not intervene. There is no law broken. It is a facility policy preventing my entry. No law prevented me from seeing my mother in her apartment, where she pays rent, but I cannot get passed the locked front door. At least six vendors went through that front door during the two hours I waited for her primary care provider to arrive for my mother’s appointment. They were allowed in. I had to sit outside, with my 96-year-old mother, in 102-degree heat, for her visit with her primary care provider. This is less than ideal.
We need dialogue to change this practice now. It is apparent democracy is slipping away from America. However, what happened to our common sense, dignity, humanity, doing what is right?
Nurse practitioner Tina Hoover, DNP ANP-BC, is a Casa Grande resident.