Banned from nursing homes, families see shocking decline in loved ones: NPR

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Luann Thibodeau recently celebrated his 40th birthday with her husband, Jeff. They had dinner at Olive Garden while she stayed on the other side of the window in Jeff’s nursing room. The Thibodeaus have not been in the same room since mid-March, when visitors were banned from staying in retirement homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

JerSean Golatt for NPR

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JerSean Golatt for NPR

Luann Thibodeau recently celebrated his 40th birthday with her husband, Jeff. They had dinner at Olive Garden while she stayed on the other side of the window in Jeff’s nursing room. The Thibodeaus have not been in the same room since mid-March, when visitors were banned from staying in retirement homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

JerSean Golatt for NPR

It was not the candle light and the soft music that made Luann and Jeff Thibodeau’s 40th birthday so memorable. He was looking out the window of Jeff’s retirement home in Texas, eating take-out from the Olive Garden. Just the two. And an auxiliary nurse.

“She fed him and I ate mine, and that’s it,” said Luann Thibodeau. “So it was our 40th wedding anniversary. “

Luann brought Jeff’s dinner every night except Tuesday when she was studying the Bible. Since she has been unable to visit, Luann says that, as Jeff’s multiple sclerosis has worsened, he is becoming increasingly disinterested in food.

Luann Thibodeau

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Luann Thibodeau

Luann brought Jeff’s dinner every night except Tuesday when she was studying the Bible. Since she has been unable to visit, Luann says that, as Jeff’s multiple sclerosis has worsened, he is becoming increasingly disinterested in food.

Luann Thibodeau

The Thibodeaux have not been in the same room since mid-March. It was then that visitors were banned from nursing homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But family members say FaceTime and holding up window signs are no substitute for the practical care and emotional support their visits provide.

Family members are often an integral part of the care residents of nursing homes receive. They make sure meals are eaten, clothes are changed. They also offer invaluable emotional support.

Otherwise, the consequences can be dire. NPR has spoken to several families about what has happened since the ban on visits in mid-March. All said they had seen shocking declines in their loved ones.

Residents’ advocates say it’s time to rethink the ban outright.

Nursing homes can allow visitors to “compassionate situations”. But this is generally interpreted to mean end-of-life visits. Robyn Grant, director of public policy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care, says that compassionate care needs to be interpreted more broadly.

Luann adjusts a family photo on the wall of his house. Before the coronavirus outbreak, she took Jeff to church on Sunday and to the movies. They were going out for fast food. But she says that since the lockdown, her anxiety has increased.

JerSean Golatt for NPR

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JerSean Golatt for NPR

Luann adjusts a family photo on the wall of his house. Before the coronavirus outbreak, she took Jeff to church on Sunday and to the movies. They were going out for fast food. But she says that since the lockdown, her anxiety has increased.

JerSean Golatt for NPR

“Residents are mentally, physically declining,” she says. “We think these situations are times when family members should be allowed. “

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