CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Nearly 10,000 cases of Covid-19 have been found in Ohio nursing home residents and staff so far.
Families are now relieved they’ll soon be able to visit their loved ones again, after Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement Monday.
19 Investigates spoke with a state advocate for the first time on how they've been helping families.
Beverley Laubert spent the last 30 years fighting for residents and families in nursing homes and long-term care.
And the Covid-19 crisis is one of the biggest challenges she's ever faced.
“Families are seeing things through windows that worry them, residents that might have lost weight, they don’t look good. Residents with dementia who are not recognizing family because they have not seen them for so long,” Laubert said.
Families were cut off from seeing their loved ones for months as the virus spread in nursing homes and nearly 2,000 residents died.
Now on July 20, some outdoor visits will start up again.
Laubert has been fielding calls from families who felt they were being left in the dark.
“Many families actually help to provide care while they’re visiting. They might help with a meal, they might help with brushing the hair. Or help with hand washing, face washing, that sort of thing, just to help residents feel comfortable,” she said.
State ombudsmen help families and investigate complaints of abuse or neglect.
Laubert said they've had about the same number of calls as they did last year at this time during the pandemic.
Now Laubert is also one of 25 experts on the new national Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes.
“We have providers represented, researchers, advocates,” she said.
Laubert said they’re focused on three key areas:
-Ensuring protection of residents and maximizing quality of life
-Quickly identifying and mitigating virus infection
-And enhancing strategies to improve compliance with infection control, oversight and monitoring.
Laubert said lessons can be learned from the pandemic and applied every day in nursing homes-- like consistently assigning staff to certain patients.
“So residents don’t have to teach a new caregiver every day about what their preferences are, they have the same staff each shift. So they get to know the resident,” she said.
Ombudsmen haven't gone inside nursing homes since visitors were banned.
They used phone calls and video chats to connect.
We reached out to the Ohio Department of Aging to find out when they’ll start going back for visits.
You can find out more about their program and how to get help here.
The coronavirus commission is expected to release its final report this fall.