March 25, 2020
St. Louis news channel KMOV4 recently released two features related to social isolation in long-term care (LTC) during the COVID-19 stay-home orders. At the time of publishing, LTC facilities are closed to all visitors except staff and emergency personnel. This has caused growing concern over the mental health effects of prolonged social isolation on LTC residents.
KMOV previously reported on the Authorized Electronic Monitoring Act (commonly referred to as the "camera bill" or the "granny cam bill"), which would allow residents the option to install cameras inside private rooms. The status of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a new benefit of introducing electronic monitoring to residents' rooms: the reduction of social isolation during times of quarantine. With visitors blocked from physical visits, window or balcony drive-bys discouraged, and access to smartphones, tablets, and laptops a challenge, the use of electronic monitoring in LTC settings would remove some barriers to communication between residents and their loved ones.
On a broader scale, quarantine conditions raise the issue of general connectedness of LTC residents to the outside world. Families and friends outside of LTC homes are scrambling to work with the facilities to set up and coordinate virtual visits. Additionally, regular social engagement is increasingly difficult. Facility activity directors are getting creative with internal activities to engage residents while also maintaining appropriate safety regulations like the "six foot rule.
As previously mentioned, window and balcony visits are currently not encouraged. This is both in an effort to keep people home, and to reduce confusion and mental distress on vulnerable residents.
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