By Steve Moran

The data is clear, infections and death rates in senior living are plunging as the result of the vaccine being widely distributed to residents and team members. And yet regulators and even senior living executives are reluctant to move back to normal operations, with group activities and outside visitors.

No Hurry Mentality

Here is the problem. From the perspective of the government regulators and politicians, it is a lot less risky for senior living to restrict visitors than to relax the regulations. They are never (or almost never) going to be criticized for being overprotective.

But . . .

THIS IS AT THE PERIL OF THE MENTAL HEALTH OF OUR RESIDENTS AND TEAM MEMBERS.

Criticality

There are 3 reasons why this is so critical. The first is obvious, the other two less so.

  1. Residents’ mental health is suffering horribly and unreasonably. This is particularly true since nearly all residents have been vaccinated. Quarantine and even social distancing with vaccinated residents and staff is simply nuts.
  2. It is crushing the ability to move residents into a community. It is completely reasonable for a resident to say, “I am not moving in if my kids, grandkids, and those cute great-grandkids can’t come to visit me.” Who would blame them?
  3. It is crushing team members. Being a team member before the pandemic was stressful but hugely rewarding . . . mostly. In our pandemic world, even with the vaccine, stress is winning.

More Evidence

There is a Facebook group titled Caregivers for Compromise – because isolation kills too! It has more than fourteen thousand members and the stories of isolation are gut-wrenching. Here are a couple of snippets: 

“Every day I wonder whose attention at CMS (Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services) I can get to clarify the issue of Compassionate Visits. I see too many posts here about these visits being denied, most often based on the vague definition of the criteria for the visits, and then when the county positivity rate exceeds 10%. Facilities will tell us they are following the guidelines.”

“Chains on the windows INSIDE a skilled nursing facility, preventing the residents from opening the windows for visits with their loved ones. 🤬 

I’m BEYOND livid. Can’t address the facility because of the risk of retaliation . . .  which is illegal, of course, but VERY much REAL. 😤 Friends have begun taking action in other ways. This is unconscionable.  😭”

Time for Action

Our trade associations and our operators ought to be screaming bloody murder about these restrictions. If the residents’ well-being is the most important thing, at what point do we as an industry stand up and say, “The rules are unjust and destroying lives?”

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