Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is failing to protect the most vulnerable among us.
Three weeks after New York state Gov. Cuomo halted the practice of transferring COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes, Gov. Whitmer continues to endanger her state’s nursing home residents and staff members by providing incentives to owners who admit COVID-19 patients. These COVID-19 “hubs” receive $5,000 to begin accepting COVID-19 patients and collect upward of $200 a day for their care. The owners are not required to inform current residents or their family members and the hubs are run with virtually no oversight.
At the same time, Gov. Whitmer continues to order the confinement of all nursing home residents to their rooms. She is not only isolating them from each other, but also from their care partners and family members. Many residents require 24/7 assistance, something the governor has been denying them for two and a half months. In the best of times, nursing homes are unable to provide that level of care without the help of outside care partners and family members. Now, in the worst of times, the governor is blocking access to that critical help.
By denying state ombudsmen access to residents under their protection, Gov. Whitmer has recklessly diminished the oversight of nursing homes.
By requiring residents to have meals in their rooms, out of sight of their aids, the governor is denying them the assistance they sometimes need to eat or, worse, creating a choking hazard. The governor must be incapable of realizing what it is like, after weeks of forced absence, to have a parent or spouse no longer recognize a family member.
Has she considered what the lack of exercise and mental stimulation is doing to residents’ bodies and minds? The majority of elders with dementia cannot participate in activities currently being offered.
State officials who suggest that an iPad will help maintain contact between residents and their relatives do not consider the limited cognitive abilities of the majority of residents. While the use of these services may be enjoyed by a select few, it is often a confusing and upsetting experience for those with dementia.
Window visits can pose a similar problem, but the governor’s executive order allows individual facilities to deny this necessary comfort to the many residents who would benefit from seeing their relatives in person. Grand Traverse Pavilions in Traverse City has not allowed window visits since the restrictions began in March, despite the fact that many other facilities across the state and country encourage them.
To protect the most vulnerable, Gov. Whitmer must address all of these issues and end the practice of paying bonuses to nursing homes that accept COVID-19 patients. The type of isolation that she continues to mandate in nursing homes should be stopped and never happen again. She is holding the most vulnerable captive in a world where experiencing the simplest delights is denied them, impacting their general well-being and safety in ways we may never know.
About the author: Claudia Bruce moved to Traverse City in 2009 to help her sister care for their mother, who showed signs of dementia. Her mother is 99 and has lived in four long-term care facilities in Traverse City. Bruce has attended or watched the Department of Health and Human Services’s monthly board meetings at Grand Traverse Pavilions for more than a year. Bruce worked as a research scholar in various areas of cultural history since beginning a master’s degree in 2012 at New York University, receiving the Gallatin School’s academic excellence award upon completion in 2014.
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