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Vaccines have not cured loneliness in New York nursing homes

HERKIMER, NEW YORK (AP) – Vaccines have begun to save lives in New York nursing homes, but they have yet to cure another crisis caused by the epidemic: loneliness.

The steady high rates of COVID-19 have left most of the state’s nursing homes out to visitors, despite the quiet guidance that was intended to reopen them.

Until this week, under state federal law, they could only receive visitors if they did not have new infections within 14 days, either among patients or staff.

That sign was very difficult for many to reach. More than half of the state’s 616 nursing homes were ineligible for home visits in mid-March, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of Medicaid և Medicare in the United States. This is the highest percentage in any state.

New York on Thursday updated its visit rules to allow visits to resume under certain conditions, even if one resident or employee recently tested positive. But this easy-to-follow standard may not find its way into many homes that have difficulty maintaining the virus.

The lack of visits has disappointed people like Debbie Barbano, who has only been able to see her 69-year-old mother through a window in New York’s central nursing home.

“When it hit last year, it was like the ball in your chest,” said Barbano. “She did not understand why I was not coming. It was as if I was leaving him. ”

Under New York guidelines, homes still had to stop visits after any resident or staff member tested positive, but they could be resumed for some patients if a thorough follow-up phase revealed that the outbreak was limited to only one part of the facility.

It is unclear, however, how this guideline will be properly applied և whether the change will mainly affect large homes with apartment buildings, floors or units where staff or occupants are less mixed units.

State Health Commissioner Howard Uck Ucker justified the visit restrictions by pointing to a winter wave that infected 15,000 nursing home residents, killing at least 3,000.

The federal Nurs Vaccine Program has helped reduce COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes across the country. In New York in the second week of March, 41 residents of a nursing home died from COVID-19, compared to 382 in the week ending January 17.

The reduction in national infections has allowed 80% of nationally licensed nursing homes to open by mid-March, including the vast majority of California’s nearly 1,200 institutions.

In New York, infections are more common in nursing home residents than in staff. Some workers were hesitant to take the vaccine. And as New York City and its suburbs see an increase in cases, state data show that only 68% of nursing home residents and 51% of New York City workers have been vaccinated.

“Ursus nipples are finally starting to light up at the end of the tunnel,” said Christopher Laxton, executive director of the Society for Acute Long-Term Care Medicine, whose team is learning about new US rules. Medicare և Medicaid Service Centers. “It simply came to our notice then. We see the end of it. “

Meanwhile, some relatives are struggling to find their loved ones.

Family members from New York, across the country, who have organized Facebook groups, say that their loved ones lose weight, fall, fall on the cognitive level, die alone, suffer from lack of attention. The federal government allows compassionate visits, but other families in New York say nursing homes do not always allow it.

Laura Corridi, a 56-year-old senior programmer in Hamlin, New York, drove for an hour and a half over the weekend to stand in front of her 93-year-old mother’s nursing home and yell at her in the past. year:

“Sometimes he gets very upset,” Corridi said. “He will say, ‘Cold urt is. You can not be there. ” He starts crying. “Why don’t they let me in?” “She does not want me to be cold.”

State lawmakers passed a bill this year that would allow nursing home residents to appoint up to two guardians who can visit them, even if general visits are not allowed, as long as they are screened for other infection records.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has not yet signed the legislation, but his office has not responded to a request for comment on whether it intends to do so. Cuomo has been politically motivated by recent revelations that his administration has not announced the full death toll in a nursing home during the peak of the epidemic.

According to a study by the AP, New York is one of at least 17 states where lawmakers are considering such legislation.

But many New Yorkers who have relatives in nursing homes say their loved ones can’t wait for company.

“They are dying now,” said Karen Costner of New York City, Greece. “My mother loses the will to live every week. And I have to go in there now. ”

Uck Ucker told lawmakers last month that he was “very sympathetic” to family members, but insisted that the state’s hands were “tied” by the federal leadership.

“Too many seniors are isolated, lonely, scared,” said Arthur Kaplan, director of medical ethics at Grosman Medical School in New York University. “Many people with cognitive disabilities are scared to see everyone in disguise, not to see people they know.”

But Kaplan, whose mother died in a Massachusetts nursing home last year, said he was still concerned that little was being done to protect the underprivileged. Staff should be required to be vaccinated and visitors should be screened, he urged.

“If the staff is not vaccinated, I think people who have family members there should shout to get vaccinated,” Kaplan said.

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