‘Isolation is killing’: Families with loved ones in long-term care facilities take visitation concerns to Gov. Cooper

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– Families who have been begging lawmakers to allow them to visit their loved ones in long-term care facilities took their concerns directly to Governor Cooper Wednesday morning.

Tim Wall spoke out as Governor Cooper was finishing up a press conference about reopening schools.

“My mom died two weeks ago. His mom died, her mom died,” Wall said to Cooper. “When is it going to change?  The residents are vaccinated.  Staff are not willing to be.  There need to be essential care givers.  Isolation is killing.”

Wall says guidelines on when and how families can visit loves ones in long term care haven’t changed since December.  Last week the state said most facilities meet criteria for indoor visitation, so long as they have no cases of COVID-19.

The most recent data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows active outbreaks at 235 nursing homes. 

“The last press release they just sent out was a red herring.  It did not define anything additional.  It did not make a difference,” said Wall.

Wall and other families want the state to allow “essential caregivers” to see their family members.

“We’re not advocating for Uncle Harry and all six grandkids to pile into grandma’s room and spread the virus around.  Not at all.  We’re asking for one person as, our sign says, to touch, to love, to save a life,” said Bob Willson.

Willson’s wife of 53 years is in a nursing home.  He said he wants to do whatever it takes to spend more quality time with her.  

“We were sweethearts all along.  It just breaks my heart what little time I do get to spend with her,” he said.

Willson feels that under the new CDC guidance he should be allowed to visit her because they are both fully vaccinated.  However, current NCDHHS guidance doesn’t permit indoor visits if there is an outbreak at a facility.

“For anybody that’s been vaccinated let them into the nursing homes without any qualms whatsoever.  Vaccinated visiting vaccinated,” he said.

Amy McGuire says the concern is how isolation is impacting loved ones, like her mother who beat COVID-19 twice in her nursing home.  However, McGuire says isolation led to her decline.

“We were able to be with her while she was dying and that was the only time, we were able to be with her from March to October,” she said.  “On our mother’s death certificate, it actually says ‘failure to thrive,’ so that means she was depressed, and she was isolated.”

In response to Wall, Cooper said there have already been discussions about easing visiting restrictions are long term care facilities and expressed his condolences to families whose loved ones have died.

“There has been significant success in getting vaccinations.  We know how important human comfort is and human closeness,” said Cooper.

He said he would bring concerns to NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

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