Many of the cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Connecticut have been associated with residents of the state’s 215 nursing homes. Along with the devastating effect of the virus, there is something else that has been affecting this very vulnerable population – loneliness.
Family photographs show happier times – before the coronavirus pandemic – for Connie Power, 83, who has been living at a Bristol nursing home for over a year. Power has not contracted the virus, but her life is much different – much more isolated – than it was three months ago, her family said.
“I went to sit with her for dinner like I usually do, and the doors were locked,” said Power’s daughter, Lynn Norman, about the day she realized she would not be allowed inside the facility to see her mother. “I believe that was March 9, I think was the last time.”
It was back in March when the state Department of Public Health instructed all 215 chronic and convalescent nursing homes to restrict all visitors, except in certain circumstances, such as end of life.
Norman said she has had virtual visits and two window visits with her mother and that the nursing home staff is providing great care. But, she said, the loneliness has taken a toll on the residents.
“We could see the difference in her,” said Norman. “Even though her health is OK, she cries and (says) ‘I miss you’ and it’s total confinement.”
“She’s in that one room 24-7,” said Norman.
George Kuchel is a professor and the director of the Center on Aging at UConn Health. Kuchel said the two main goals are to keep nursing home residents safe and healthy and to keep them happy. But, he said, those two things are often competing objectives.
“Being isolated is difficult for anyone. It’s even more difficult when you’re older,” Kuchel said.
Norman, meanwhile, is waiting for the day some of the state restrictions can safely be lifted.
“With the proper protection, immediate family should be able to go - keep the public out still,” Norman said. “But if they’re opening everything else up, I just think that they should let immediate family. It’s just as important as their medication.”
“We want what’s left of her life to be good,” Norman said of her mother. “We should be with her.”