Family Of 90-Year-Old Coloradan Hopeful, But Skeptical About Changes To COVID-19 Long-Term Care Rules

The governor announced a new set of proposed guidelines this week to bring visitors back inside long-term care facilities. They were put on hold almost as soon as the pandemic started, and families say since then they have been forced to sit back and watch as their loved ones’ health declined.

That was the case for Jeanine Cochran.

At a 90th birthday celebration just before the outbreak of coronavirus her daughters say she was full of life despite having been diagnosed with dementia.

“She’s my best friend, she’s all of our best friends,” Cheryl Nicholas said.

She and her sister Lisa Ertle say the facility their mother is in went on lockdown in March, and for months they were unable to see her.

“Doing this for the safety of the residents, totally fine with that, we want to keep our mom safe, keep her around and have the best health. … We had absolutely no idea it could lead to this,” Nicholas said.

Eventually the facility would allow limited virtual visits and attend window communication, but with Cochran’s condition the attempts failed.

Less than a month into the shutdown the family says they noticed a drastic change in her health — both mentally and physically.

Often falling and injuring herself, still no one from the family was allowed to check on her.

“Her Kaiser doctor went in to see her at one point. (He said) she shouldn’t be declining this quickly. He documented in her file a failure to thrive based on social isolation, caregivers looking differently, abrupt routine change and not seeing her family,” she said.

After about a dozen falls, their mother was put under hospice care. And while families can be granted compassion visits based on different criteria, the family was told it was still not possible.

Nicholas started calling local health and government officials asking for someone to step in.

“That’s when we got our once-a-week visit,” she said.

For her and her family the state’s proposed guidelines looks good on paper, but in order for it to happen facilities and families have a new set of hoops to jump through.

Per the recommendations, in person visits can only happen after a set of six criteria are met. They include requirements for PPE, being in a county with declining cases, the facility must be COVID-19 free for nearly a month and visitors must have a negative coronavirus test result within 24 hours of their visit.

“I am hopeful but I am very skeptical just because of what we have been through over the past six months watching the bureaucratic wheel spin,” Nicholas said.

Now they’re fighting for all families who want to see balanced decision-making that’s based on more than just numbers.

“What is life if you don’t get to see your family?” Nicholas said.

The state is accepting feedback on the proposed guidelines until Friday.

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