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Limited nursing home access putting strain on families

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 5:18 PM CST
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ANDALUSIA, Ala. (WTVY) - Nursing homes continue to limit visitors in hopes of preventing COVID-19 from entering the facilities. This is leaving many residents lonely and families unable to see their loved ones.

“This is the hardest thing besides the death of my father I’ve ever been through,” Angela Blackburn said.

Blackburn hasn’t got to hug her mother, Mary, since the pandemic hit ten months ago. Mary has been confined inside an Andalusia nursing home.

Angela gets to visit her mother only during a limited schedule and while outside looking through the window.

“This has been very hard on all of us,” Blackburn said. “Not only on us, but as well as our family members that are in the nursing homes.”

Blackburn is not alone. Many are feeling those same effects.

But John Matson with the Alabama Nursing Home Association says vaccinations are a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We want all nursing homes to have three successful vaccine clinics,” Matson said. “We think that will get us to critical mass for vaccinations among residents and staff.”

Matson says the vaccine distribution clinics will take weeks to complete. The first clinic is still finishing up.

But will vaccinations help ease restrictions and open nursing homes back up? And if not, what will it take?

Matson says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has the final say.

“We would like to open our doors more for visitation but we know we’ve got to have Covid under control in nursing homes and Covid needs to be under control in the community,” Matson said. “Because as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, if the community becomes a hot spot, usually a week to two weeks later, the nursing homes will have an outbreak of cases.”

Matson says nursing homes are one of the safest places for your loved ones to be because of the limited access, testing, and now available vaccinations.

“There’s no place in the country that are testing as much, and testing as frequent as a nursing home,” Matson said. “So you have the peace of mind. Yes, there may be Covid cases, but the reason you know it is because there’s frequent testing.”

But for Blackburn, she just wants to hug her Mom. Blackburn says her mother will be getting the vaccine, and she will also get it when its available to the general public.

“I don’t want anything to come between me being able to see her,” Blackburn said. “If that’s what we need to do, that’s what we’ll do.”

Matson says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require every nursing home staff member and resident to get tested twice each week if there’s been a positive Covid-19 test in the building in the past two weeks.

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