‘Governor, unlock the doors now!’ Families of nursing home residents to bring urgent plea to state capitol Saturday

‘Governor, unlock the doors now!’ Families of nursing home residents to bring urgent plea to capitol

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOIO) - Many families with loved ones in nursing homes have had enough.

Some haven’t seen their husbands, wives, mothers or fathers in person because of coronavirus restrictions, for months.

Families want their voices heard, and some of them are protesting at the state capitol this Saturday.

Nearly 2,800 nursing home residents in Ohio have died from Covid-19, according to the latest numbers from the Ohio Department of Health.

That number includes the 369 deaths ODH linked to the virus before they officially started posting numbers on April 15.

Nursing home residents have made up around 70 percent of the deaths in our state throughout the entire pandemic.

Advocates worry isolation is making this worse.

“Governor-- unlock the doors now!” reads a message on one of the posters some families are bringing to the state capitol on Saturday, with an urgent plea for help.

Their anguish and anger is growing as months pass and many can’t see their loved ones in nursing homes due to the pandemic.

“So families are seeing weight loss, they’re seeing dehydration in their family members. Some of them have aged years in six months,” said Paula Mueller, with the local non-profit group Elderly Advocates.

She organized a peaceful protest outside of the state capitol Saturday from 1-3 p.m.

Mueller and several families are asking Governor Mike DeWine for a plan on how residents will learn to live with Covid-19 as the coronavirus crisis stretches on.

“We feel and the families feel that the isolation and not getting in to see their families is causing them to mentally decline,” she said.

She and dozens of families want to see one “family support person” allowed in long term care facilities per resident, with proper safety precautions taken.

“Some of the residents feel like, what did they do to deserve this? They feel like they’re in prison,” Mueller said.

She said some nursing home residents are confined to their room, and not allowed to gather in group settings for eating or socialization because of precautions against the virus.

Governor DeWine allowed outdoor visits to start back in July, with certain safety requirements in place.

But not all families have been able to visit because of Covid-19 cases in the facility or community where their relative lives.

Mueller believes some resident deaths are from neglect or isolation.

“You need that human connection of seeing bodies and not just walls. They’re not getting that from seeing their families, from the facility,” she said.

Several families have reached out to 19 Investigates, concerned about their loved ones' mental and physical health.

One woman told Investigator Sara Goldenberg in an email that her husband is giving up his will to live.

Mueller worries about the winter, if something doesn’t change.

“Just like everyone else needs to learn to live with Covid, so do the facilities and the nursing homes. Because they can’t just let our family members die,” she said.

The Governor’s office responded to 19 Investigates for this story:

“Residents in Ohio’s nursing homes are some of Ohio’s most vulnerable to COVID-19. They include older Ohioans and residents with medical conditions known to have complications with COVID-19. Ohio’s safety guidelines regarding nursing homes balance the needs of residents with our obligation to help protect them from COVID-19.”

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