ST. LOUIS, MO (KMOX) - After six months in lockdown, the federal government is now requiring many nursing homes to open their doors to visitors.
Elderly and fragile populations have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. In Missouri alone, federal data shows more than 800 long-term care residents have lost their lives to the pandemic.
Advocates for nursing home residents have seen isolation take its toll on both the mental and physical well-being of this population.
"If you can imagine being locked in a room the size of your bedroom, maybe with a roommate, maybe without a roommate, with really only contact with staff that's helping you periodically, and really the only time you're getting to leave is maybe to take a shower every couple of days, that can be incredibly stressful," says Marjorie Moore, Executive Director of VOYCE.
Under the new requirements, skilled nursing facilities that receive funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid must allow visitors, unless they have had recent cases in the facility or the local COVID numbers rise above certain thresholds. A memorandum released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS on September 17, 2020 states:
Moore recommends one family member be the point of contact with the nursing care facility, "who is going to contact the facility, who is going to help arrange this because if every resident has 12 different family members trying to get in to visit all at once, it's going to be a mess and it's going to be really hard for the facilities to manage."
Moore adds that outdoor visits are still preferred, when possible.