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Access to COVID Tests Helps Nursing Home Combat Isolation

Nursing home?residents?have gone nearly?ten months?with?limited family?contact?because of the pandemic.?Winter weather?brought an end to?outdoor visits with loved ones.???

But better access to COVID tests?means?some facilities?are?now?offering?limited?indoor?visits.


Connecting residents?with their family is an important goal for?Loren?Diekman.??He’s?president and CEO of Jenkins Living Center in Watertown.?They’ve used?video chat and phone calls since the beginning of the pandemic. But in-person visits, even from a distance outdoors, made a big difference.??

“I believe those really helped our residents here at Jenkins not feel that severe depression from isolation.”?

Diekman?says?when they?ended?outdoor visits?the?staff had to get even more creative.?

“We converted our gift shop in our facility here--put up plexiglass walls out in the middle, put in an intercom system in there. And again, people can have fairly close contact and still have it safe.”?

?Increased access to COVID tests?has also made a difference. Early on, tests were?limited and costly.?Diekman?says his facility spent nearly $39,000 on test?kits?in one month. In late October, the?federal government?began?supplying?rapid COVID-19?tests?at no cost to long term care facilities.?Diekman?says?they?can?now?allow one family member?per resident to?visit?each week.?

“And if they’ve been screened and tested and there’s no issue there, they’re able to go up to their resident’s room and have a close contact visit in their room. We?ask them to keep their mask on at all times. We can really see the spirits of our residents being lifted when they can have those closer face-to-face visits with their family members.”

The?COVID-19 vaccine is also bringing hope for the new year.?Diekman?says some?of their?staff and residents?have?already?received the?first dose of the?Moderna?vaccine.?

-Contact SDPB reporter Jackie Hendry by email.