The months and months of nursing home lock-downs have been incredibly difficult for my clients who live in these facilities, and hard on their family members. While Florida’s governor has started to ease restrictions, positive COVID-19 cases among residents or staff usually results in another lock-down. Families are frustrated and residents, especially those with dementia, are upset and don’t understand why their loved ones have ‘abandoned’ them.

This was the case with Maria, an 88-year old woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Maria lived in a nursing home and hadn’t seen her daughter, Lucia, in months. She deeply missed her daughter and had no idea why she couldn’t socialize with other residents like she used to do. Sometimes the masks that the staff wore scared her. When Lucia called the nursing staff to check on her mother, the typical response was just an abrupt “Your mama’s doing fine.” But many times when Lucia spoke to her mother on the phone, Maria seemed listless and tearful.

Concerned about the poor communication and her mother’s health, Lucia hired me to be Maria’s case manager. I began in-person visits right away. My staff and I get tested for COVID-19 every two weeks and our temperature is taken each time we visit our clients in facilities. We always wear masks and if required by the facility, full personal protective gear equipment (PPE) such as gowns and gloves. Besides keeping Lucia informed about her mother’s health, I spent time with Maria and tried to keep her engaged and motivated.

“I’m so relieved you can see Mom and help her if something isn’t right,” Lucia told me. “I could tell she was getting really lonely and depressed.”

In fact, many seniors are suffering mentally and emotionally from the lack of access to their family members. Even though the state has lifted some restrictions, facilities have their own rules and requirements and can prohibit visitors if they deem it necessary. In addition, COVID-19 testing rules at facilities are inconsistent and don’t necessarily comply with CDC recommendations.

More than ever, families need case managers who can monitor their loved ones’ care in person and advocate on their behalf. It’s one of the reasons we get tested ourselves for COVID-19 every two weeks and do everything possible to protect ourselves and our clients. Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon, these caregiving challenges will likely persist for some time to come.