Letter to the Editor: Residents or prisoners

To the Editor:

Do you have or know someone in a nursing home?  Are they allowing any type of visits?

I agree that we need to take COVID-19 seriously.  In the beginning, it was necessary to lock down nursing homes. However, we cannot lock people up for five months, plus how much longer and merely say, “We’re doing this for your safety.”

Long-term isolation is detrimental to everyone, especially the elderly. The elderly are at a high risk for physical and mental decline if forced to live in isolation away from those who are most important to them.

I have made many phone calls to try and understand why we are continuing to keep these people so locked up. Everywhere I call, they say I need to call somewhere else and talk to someone else. After weeks of doing this, I now understand why. It’s because everyone is placing the decision on someone else and nursing home residents and their families are paying the price. Do you feel this continued isolation is good for nursing home residents?

Go to dia.iowa.gov/document/dia-and-idph-covid-19-ltc-reopening-phases-and-testing. You will pull up a document dated 06/30/2020. Phase 1 says closed window visits are allowed. If there are no outbreaks ‘in the facility’ outdoor visits, open windows and chat boxes are allowed.  Outdoor visits and chat boxes are to be done by appointment. Dining is limited to 10 residents.

Phase 2 has all the previous plus designated indoor visits. Dining can be 50% of the residents. Salons may open. The county has a downward trend in new cases. Phase 3 has all the previous plus all residents can eat in the dining.

When I was calling around, one thing that was pointed out to me was the fact that Phase 1 is based solely upon the facility. The community as a whole plays no part in it. So, I went to the above website and reread all the phases. What they are telling me is accurate. Outdoor visits, open windows and chat boxes are allowed right from the start if there are no outbreaks ‘in the facility’.

So, why isn’t this being allowed? It is a decision made by the facility. If the local facilities are leary of open windows, why not tape a plexiglass to the screen that goes part way up the window. At least, the resident can have a normal conversation without a device.  Plexiglass can be used outdoors as well. Some governors from other states have implemented executive orders for nursing homes to allow outdoor and open window visits. These governors know that we have entered the detrimental stage of isolation and these people need their families.

We are seeing an increase in COVID-19. The increase is in the 20-25 year olds.  This is bringing harm to everyone. Do we need to admit them to a facility, lock it down and say, “It is for your safety.” Why are we allowing bars and beaches to continue to stay open if people are not going to practice social distancing? In all reality, alcohol, youth and social distancing is contradicting.

July 4th, Independence Day, has come and gone. So did Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, as well as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Yet, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, etc. are still locked in. Their freedom taken away. Fall is around the corner and if they are still alive they will never have been able to get out with family. Being locked up for five months plus is beyond ‘for your safety’. It is now a prison.

If you feel the same way, contact Governor Reynolds and let her know: 515-281-5211. Contact Joni Ernst at 319-365-4504 and Charles Grassley at 319-232-6657.  These two can influence the governor.  Contact the Iowa Public Health at 515-281-7689, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals at 800-447-8477 and the Iowa Attorney General at 888-777-4590. Call the administrator of your facility. These people need to hear from families and friends of the people who are in nursing homes.

Feel free to call and talk to me. I would like to hear how you feel about this.  My phone number is in the phone book.

Personally, I believe time is important and valuable to our senior citizens. Every minute that we take away from them in their right to see and be with family and friends is wrong. What they call compassionate care to me is cruel. Family is forced to stay away until the person is on their deathbed and then when there is nothing we can do we are allowed to say ‘Goodbye’. The person suffered alone for months like a prisoner.

Becky Huck


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