Isolation in nursing home prevents families from visiting loved ones

Patricia Lekan and granddaughter Alyssa at her college graduation.

The COVID-19 virus has caused numerous problems for families: preventing them from being together for holidays, celebrating birthdays or just hanging out at home with one another. But for grandparents who are currently in assisted living facilities, it will be difficult for them to spend time with their grandchildren in-person any time soon. 

Isolation from grandchildren and great grandchildren for a long period of time in an elderly living facility can cause loneliness or boredom if they are living alone and are unable to see their families.

Patricia Lekan is a mother to three children, grandmother of seven children and great-grandmother of two who has not seen her family since March of last year to remain healthy and not be at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

She is 84 years old, has a higher chance of getting the coronavirus and needs to stay out of contact with people to protect herself.

“I didn’t think I would be spending precious time with my kids and grandchildren on FaceTime sitting in my room alone, with a pandemic to worry about,” Lekan said. “On top of worrying about myself staying healthy, I constantly fear that someone in my family will get sick from the virus.”

Bloom at Lakewood, the assisted living facility Lekan lives at, stopped all visitations in March of 2020 to keep their residents safe and supervised with high levels of care. 

“The frail elderly are particularly at risk because of limited (or impaired) physical mobility, less autonomy, increased vulnerability to infections and immunological depletion, cognitive decline, chronic health conditions, lower injury thresholds and higher recovery times,” said Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. 

Despite not being able to interact face-to-face with her family, Lekan’s grandchildren FaceTime her throughout the week to stay connected and keep one another company.

“I like to call my grandma once a week to catch up even if there might not be anything interesting that happened. I know I can’t visit her because of the severity of the virus, so I try to keep her company, which helps me deal with having to stay home too,” said Lekan’s granddaughter Alyssa.

In a 2018 study, physician Alan Teo found that the use of video chatting helped reduce the risk of depression in people aged 60 and older, a group that is more likely to be socially isolated than younger people.

“Missing my family is hard because I can only see them through the phone, but I am grateful that there is a way that I can still communicate with them while staying healthy with the help of my aids at Bloom,” Lekan said.

Jennifer Lasik covers relationships. Contact her at [email protected].