'We Just Started To Hear Horrific Stories': New Report Details 'Devastating Effect' Of Long-Term Care Closures

Published: Friday, January 22, 2021 - 8:49am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 11:39am

Nearly 11 months have passed since nursing homes closed their doors to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some states, including Arizona, have resumed family visits under certain circumstances. Now, a new report highlights what some family members discovered once they were allowed back in. 

The report is titled “The Devastating Effect of Lockdowns on Residents of Long Term Care Facilities During Covid-19.” — because that’s what it was. 

Sam Brooks is an attorney with the Consumer Voice, which represents long-term care consumers. They released the report. 

"As soon as nursing homes locked down, we realized there was going to be a crisis," he said.

That’s because many long-term care facilities are understaffed. 

"And a lot of homes relied on family members," Brooks said.

Because family often help fill those caregiving gaps. They might help feed or groom their loved one, or simply provide companionship.  In some ways says Brooks, it was like facilities lost another set of staff when families were locked out. After the lockdown, months and months went by before they were allowed back in. 

"And we just started to hear horrific stories of significant weight loss. Residents wearing other people's clothes, their nails being long, dentures being not cleaned for months, just these horror stories, and a lot of times residents don't even recognize their loved ones anymore," said Brooks.

Dana Kennedy is the state director for AARP Arizona. 

"Unfortunately, there's nothing in the report that does shock me. It's all things that we were hearing. It's fairly common," said Kennedy.

And with such a high percentage of COVID-19 deaths occurring among long-term care residents nationwide, Kennedy is calling on the Arizona Legislature to make this issue a priority. Unfortunately, that looks unlikely. And Kennedy knows that. 

"It wasn't their priority after Hacienda. And the elected officials should be absolutely embarrassed that this is not a priority," Kennedy said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to correct a quote by Sam Brooks regarding residents' clothing. 

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