NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Navigating nursing home woes: How a vulnerable population is affected by the coronavirus pandemic 

Many families with members in nursing homes have been severely impacted by the pandemic.  

“The impact the pandemic has had on residents in the nursing homes that suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia has been great,” says Laura Tanguay of Lowell, Massachusetts.  

Tanguay worries a lot about the state of her 88-year-old dad that she has not been able to take out of the nursing facility in over a year due to the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.  

“Elderly residents are faced with depression and anxiety because of the lockdown and isolation from family,” says Tanguay. 

Her dad would become angry and upset from not being allowed to have in person visits and socialize with the family and even tried to break out of the nursing facility.  

In the beginning she could go into the nursing facility to see her dad however, she had to wear protective gear. But when many of the staff members started coming down with COVID-19, the nursing facility went into full lockdown. It was very difficult because many of the patients including her dad also had come down with the virus and it was thought that the exposure was coming from the staff. Nevertheless, her dad survived the exposure.  

After months of only being able to communicate by telephone, Tanguay is now able to communicate with her dad through video conferencing three days a week. At first, only allowed to video chat for 15 minutes at a time, later increased to 30 minutes, which made a big difference. 

Even though she couldn’t physically be there with her dad the video conferencing helped to bring much needed comfort and smiles to her dad’s face because he could both see and hear her.    

Mary Drayton of Haverhill, Massachusetts expressed the same sentiments when going to visit a close friend in a nursing facility. She could only waive at the close friend from the window. The close friend had a mild case of Alzheimer’s, but she quickly began to decline because of becoming upset and angry from not understanding why she could only see family and friends from a window.   

The same is also true of Venita Qualls from Haverhill, Massachusetts, a clinician who traveled to Georgia to see her dad who is staying in a nursing facility and who suffers from both Alzheimer’s and dementia.  It was her dad’s birthday, and she could only see him from a window to say hello and wish him a happy birthday. 

Qualls who is a clinician in mental health sees the day to day impact the pandemic has on people mentally.   

They all agree that not being able to touch and hug their family members has caused great deal of stress.  

They hope that things would soon get back to normal but until then everyone must all do their part in adhering to local and government officials in keeping safe.