EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Congregate care facilities such as nursing homes have been hit hardest by COVID-19, and this week Rhode Island will begin easing visitation restrictions at long-term care and assisted living facilities.
“It’s been almost 17 weeks now that I haven’t been able to see her in person.”
Sheila O’Connell is the voice echoed by every daughter with a mother in a congregate care facility during the pandemic.
“I know there are lots of ladies that I’ve met at her place that are in her situation. They’re pretty okay, but they need support,” she said.
Sheila’s 88-year-old mother doesn’t live in a nursing home, but an assisted living facility in Providence.
“I feel like perhaps assisted livings could have opened up in general a little bit earlier, like my mom’s place hasn’t had a case in seven weeks, so that was frustrating that they were all painted in the same broad brush of no visits,” she said.
Sheila knows all too well that it’s an effort to keep people safe. Her mother-in-law died of COVID-19 in a nursing home in May. But she said this isn’t the same as a home and she wants answers.
“I’ve written a lot of letters to the governor and various people at the DOH just saying please don’t forget that this is a vulnerable population because loneliness can cause depression and cognitive decline so please don’t just keep them to the very end of the line while you open up the rest of the state,” she said.
No one from the state responded to her, but when Sheila reached out to Eyewitness News 12 Responds we took her concerns to the governor.
The Department of Health has since announced that visitations can resume Wednesday, July 8, with restrictions.
If possible, visitations will be outside a facility, the half hour slots must be scheduled in advance, and all social distancing guidelines must be followed.
Sheila said she will be signing up right away to visit her mother when they begin visitations the following week. She hopeful this will be the start of many freedoms for the sake of her mother’s physical and mental health.
“My mom’s tough and that generation you know they’re not wimps. They’ve been through a lot and my mom’s been through a lot. This has been hard, and she tells me she’s lonely, but she says, ‘we’re tough and we’ll get through this.”