This letter is written in response to the letter to the editor published Oct. 21, regarding Westfield Quality Care of Aurora.
During a recent discussion with a fellow administrator, they were describing a discussion they had with a family member who was frustrated by COVID-19 restrictions and how they were affecting residents in long-term care. The administrator said to the family member, “I wish you had known me as the administrator before COVID-19…” and went on to explain to them how COVID-19 has changed how everyone does what they do, including decision making in long-term care settings.
Until I heard it put that way, I did not put all of the pieces together, but it is true. I wish the residents, families, staff and board of directors of Westfield Quality Care of Aurora knew me as the administrator before COVID-19. In that case, while there would still be those who disagreed with decisions I make, there would never be the confusion that I would ever knowingly put anyone in any danger or an unsafe situation, most specifically residents in our care.
COVID-19 HAS changed everything that we do and we are practicing every day ways to keep residents and staff safe from COVID-19. However, we are also still responsible for caring for those residents, as a whole, and keeping them engaged is a major part of our focus. They cannot enjoy every event or activity that they once could at Westfield, but we do everything we can to still make events happen for them. We are very particular about how and when those events occur, including the recent events of visiting with some of our hardworking area farmers.
While not everyone will agree with the decisions being made, I can reassure everyone that those decisions are well thought out, planned and carried out. We evaluate the potential risk of COVID-19, and other illnesses or general risks, but we also must consider the overall well-being of those elders we serve. This will continue to be the case not only during COVID-19, but long after COVID-19. Thank you for all of the ongoing support, positive comments and words of encouragement for residents and staff. This is an extremely difficult time for everyone, but together we will make it through.
Westfield Quality Care administrator
Nursing home residents should be allowed freedom
Eight months… 212 days…the amount of time that residents of nursing homes have been locked down since the COVID-19 crisis began. I understand the concern that initiated the lock down, but eight months of isolation from family is unconscionable and cruel.
It is true that the elderly population may be more at risk, but at what point do the residents get to make the decision as to what is risk worthy? Currently they are alive, but certainly not living! Being primarily isolated to one’s room for eight months is NOT living. Never getting a hug from a grandchild, a pat of reassurance from a loved one for over 212 days begins to cross the line into cruelty. Babies who are not held, nuzzled, and hugged enough can stop growing, and if the situation lasts long enough, even die. Yet we are denying nursing home residents the very same thing.
Many residents aren’t finding a reason to keep living without the contact of loved ones. Seeing each other through a window just doesn’t cut it! No other part of society has to endure this. The employees at nursing homes go home to their families (as they should!). However, if an employee tests positive, visitors are no longer allowed at the nursing home for two weeks. The logic of that is beyond any sensibility. The DHHS directors see their families and the list goes on, except for residents of nursing homes.
According to the Federal Nursing Homes Reform Law, residents are to have quality of life -- little of that has occurred in the past 212 days. Choice of activities -- few are offered now. Rights of access to activities outside of the facility -- none at all. The facility my mother is in doesn’t even have windows that open, so fresh air isn’t even an option. There have been intermittent periods of time when outside visits were allowed (albeit somewhat supervised to prevent a possible infraction of the 6 foot rule or God forbid a HUG), but weather in Nebraska will soon prevent that. It was somewhat of a joke anyway as we had to be masked AND 6 feet away and outside near a highway with much traffic. Visiting with a hard-of-hearing resident with all of the above distractions was nearly impossible anyway.
I have a daughter who is an OT and she has seen a decline in the overall mental/physical health of the nursing home residents she sees as part of her job. Other friends who work with nursing home residents have voiced the same opinion. And it should be noted that the staff members observe the distress of the residents daily. How heartbreaking for staff too. We have to depend on their evaluation of our loved ones because the rest of us are not given the opportunity to see them.
I seek your help in allowing nursing home residents the freedom to once again see their families/friends safely. Wearing masks and social distancing should allow us to visit in a safe manner. Please contact your local senator, governor, and DHHS to express your concern.