Tampa Bay nursing home residents dealing with isolation during pandemic

Pinellas County

SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) — Dennis Keaton was concerned at the start of the pandemic about his 103-year-old mother who was being cared for at the Freedom Square nursing home in Seminole.

During the pandemic, the facility became a hotspot of coronavirus contamination and a number of deaths.

He was finally able to get his mother out of the facility and into a new nursing home. But now he has a new problem: Isolation.

Keaton says he hasn’t been able to visit with his mother in person since March when Florida placed restrictions on nursing home visits to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“She is yelling at night now, she’s asking for help. They are giving her pain medicine to help her sleep and it’s just making her lethargic,” Keaton said. “She’s 103, she doesn’t even understand what’s going on and wonders if she’s a criminal and what did she do wrong to be put in this place.”

It’s a problem being repeated in nursing homes across Florida.

Lindsay Peterson with the University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies says the impact of isolation is very real on nursing home residents.

“The isolation that is being imposed upon seniors and upon their families is having a very disrupting, disorienting effect and there is no telling what kind of long term effects we could see from this,” Peterson said. “We are hearing stories from family members who have dementia is worsening because of the isolation.”

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.

“A lot of these residents are very likely alive now, or at least in better health, because they have not contracted the virus because of these restrictions,” said Peterson.

She says nursing homes need to get creative to help.

“We know of people who are visiting their family members, are having what they call window visits, that’s become a thing now and that seems to be working for a lot of people,” Peterson said. “The Skype visits work for a lot of people, you know they’ve resorted to the old fashioned letter writing. School children come and they bring a lot of messages and those things make a difference, they make a huge difference.”

Dennis Keaton just wants to see his mother.

“I want to sit down beside her and hold her hand again and I want to tell her I love her and explain to her what’s going on, me telling her because she’ll listen to me,” said Keaton.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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