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'It’s just cruel.' Advocates want visitor restrictions changed at long term care facilities

Some long term care residents have been isolated for nearly a year
Veranda Ministries
Posted at 4:57 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 21:27:49-05

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Isolation kills. That's the message coming from advocates who are calling for visitor restrictions to be changed at long term care facilities.

Inside Veranda Ministries, ladies with dementia had fun decorating bloomers ahead of Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, not everyone who's elderly gets to socialize right now.

Mary Anne Sutherly is the director at Veranda Ministries, and she's the Tennessee Caregivers for Compromise administrator.

"There isn’t a medical diagnosis for loneliness but failure to thrive is," Sutherly said, “To them, now after a year, they say it’s just cruel."

At some long term care facilities, residents haven't been able to see loved ones at all due to state rules. "The isolation, especially the ones who live with dementia, is a detriment," Sutherly said, "Isolation kills."

She said people are giving up because they don't have a will to live. "It is not the staff’s fault. We’re doing what the law says to do, but it hasn’t changed the outcome of it. It’s still the same,” Sutherly said.

Unfortunately, due to community spread, many nursing homes can't have visitors still. Many families thought this would change after residents received their COVID-19 vaccines, but it hasn't in the majority of cases.

The Tennessee Caregivers for Compromise group is advocating for lawmakers to allow one single caregiver to be able to visit with loved ones in isolation. "I mean in Florida it’s worked," Sutherly said.

Advocates said they have reached out to several lawmakers about their concerns. On March 13, they're planning a vigil to get their attention. Visitor restrictions were first implemented after several deadly COVID-19 clusters were reported at nursing homes.