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Nursing Homes Close Doors During Coronavirus Pandemic
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Rawles visits her mother in the nursing home
Kobee Vance, MPB News

Nursing homes in Mississippi have been closed to visitation for weeks to protect elderly and vulnerable residents from the Coronavirus. Families are finding ways to connect with their loved ones.



Meshelle Rawles of Madison is visiting with her mother in the nursing home

“How are you today?”

But she’s is visiting her, standing on the outside

“See she’s talking, she’s talking. Hey girl! Hey mother!”

No visitors are allowed inside the nursing home, so Rawles is talking to her mother through a glass door.

“If I can just get her focused. Hey! Hey mama!”

Her mom has Alzheimer’s, and has been in a nursing home for just over two years. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has restricted nursing home visits across the state. Rawles and her family have been rotating visits with their mother every day. They normally assist with her meals and laundry.

“She’s used us being there. I can touch her and she knows that I’m there. So it’s like an emptiness not being able to be there hands-on.”

Rawles says the changes in nursing home visits caught her family off guard.

“Oh my goodness it’s a big change because we are normally there around the clock. There’s someone always there feeding her, assisting with her. I mean it’s a huge change, and it was a change that we weren’t prepared for.”

Now, visiting and talking to her mother through the glass door has become the new normal.

“And it’s difficult for us because like I said earlier, she can’t communicate. But we called the nursing home and we let them know that we’re outside. And they push her to the lobby door where we kinda communicate with us.”

Rawles and her family aren’t alone. The CDC advised hospitals and long term care facilities to carefully monitor visitation to prevent the disease from entering the facilities. People over 65 or with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.

Alicia Tice is with Strategic Management, a company that assists healthcare facilities in complying with new regulations. The Mississippi Gulf Coast saw an early spike in virus cases , and Tice is working with Memorial Driftwood Nursing Center of Gulfport to keep families informed throughout the outbreak.

“The fear is out there, it’s in the community. People are kinda overwhelmed with COVID-19 news to begin with. Family members are concerned. We have kept in really good communication with them. We sent out a letter to begin with and let em’ know the alternate ways that they could communicate with the residents in the facility. But we do get phone calls still, we do get questions, they are nervous, they are concerned.”

Kyle Lewis with Senior Care at Memorial Hospital believes it’s important for families to stay connected during the outbreak.

“There’s different avenues with Ipads, facetime being one of them. And we’re fortunate to here at driftwood where we do have great outside areas and a deck that are in keeping with the space requirements so where at least the loved ones can see their family members too. So we just know that’s very important so we want to provide that avenue.”

“Look at her, look at her, that was funny to her!”

Meshell Rawles of Madison says this is has been an adjustment to how she spends time with her mother, but she appreciates the precautions to keep her safe.

“What keeps us coming back is the love we have for her. I mean, you know, and knowing that you know with all thof this that’s going on I may not be able to put my hands on her physically, but if I can put my eyes on her I can tell whether or not she’s ok. So it’s the vital monitoring that plays a part in that, because just like I know my children, I know my mom.”

It’s unknown when nursing homes will be able to open their doors again to visitors. But Rawles says she will be excited when she can hold her mother again.

“Whenever I get to see her again i’m gonna kiss on her, lap on her, all of the above”

Until then, Rawles and her family will keep visiting their mother and talking to her through the glass doors of the nursing home.

Kobee Vance, MPB news