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‘I'm still here’ — NH nursing home residents feel forgotten as days of isolation wear on 

  • A group of protesters gathered outside the State House on Friday to bring attention to the plight of the elderly living in nursing homes during the pandemic.

  • A group of protesters gathered outside the State House on Friday to bring attention to the plight of the elderly living in nursing homes during the pandemic.

  • A group of protesters gathered outside the State House on Friday to bring attention to the plight of the elderly living in nursing homes during the pandemic.

  • A group of protesters gathered outside the State House on Friday to bring attention to the plight of the elderly living in nursing homes during the pandemic.

Concord Monitor
Published: 5/1/2021 12:24:21 AM
Modified: 5/1/2021 12:24:18 AM

Every day, Leo Buote gathers with a small group of his fellow residents at Hanover Hill nursing home in Manchester to sing.

The five-person group, called The Elderlys, have sung together during the pandemic to keep their spirits up until they can see their families again.

Wendi Murphy, Buote’s daughter, said as the days of isolation wear on, it’s getting harder for the residents to keep a positive attitude.

As Granite Staters returned to restaurants, hair salons and family gatherings, Murphy said those living in nursing homes feel left behind. She said it’s difficult for her father to watch New Hampshire open up while his world largely remains unchanged.

“They see it on TV, everything opening and they keep saying ‘you didn’t mention us,’ ” she said. “My dad talks to the TV and says ‘You didn’t mention us, I’m still here.’ ”

She thought getting vaccinated would be their ticket to normalcy. She envisioned an end to the isolation once Murphy, her husband and her 96-year-old father were vaccinated.

So far, she has not seen a real difference.

“This is the normalcy we’ve been waiting for and its not coming,” Murphy said. “Some people don’t have a lot of time. This isn’t protecting them anymore. This is confining them.”

On Friday, she gathered with her husband and a few other protestors in front of the State House with a sign that read “Where is the normalcy you promised?”

Next to her, three women who are sisters, whose father also lives at Hanover Hill, waved an enlarged photo of their dad to nearby passersby.

Before the pandemic, Laura Christy, Toni Cusumano and Shari Greenleaf, spent at least five hours a day with their father at the facility.

March 12, 2020 was the last day they could openly visit him.

Since then, their short visits have been confined to the lobby of the home, where they must sit 6 feet apart from one another.

“He’s got metastatic cancer. His time is limited. Out of all of that, what scares me the most is his will of living,” Christy said.

The group doesn’t blame the nursing home. Each long term care facility follows guidelines from the state and federal government. They hope nearly all restriction on vaccinated residents and visitors will be lifted.

The Department of Health and Human Services released new visitor guidelines earlier this week that aimed to address the emotional burden quarantine has created for nursing home residents.

The guidelines defined a new type of visitor, an essential support visitor, who provides emotional care to their loved one.

One designated person permitted to see each resident, without any restrictions on touching and social distancing, even during an outbreak at the facility.

“Because residents in many of these LTCFs have been without visitation for almost a year, their psychosocial well-being is in jeopardy and a majority, if not all, residents qualify for compassionate care visits,” the document read.

The document also allows vaccinated residents to touch their loved ones during visits and welcome visitors inside the facility in most situations.

Still, some restrictions remain in place that have caused frustration.

Murphy said she wants to take her father out of the home to get him ice cream or bring him to the beach.

Even at homes in the lowest risk category, only some trips outside the home will be allowed based on the risk of the activity, the current guidelines say.

Murphy said both she and her father are aware and accept the risks of leaving the nursing home if it means he will regain his social support network.

Christy and her sisters fear that even with the new relaxations, the rules surrounding outbreaks could keep them from their father for months.

The guidelines stipulate that if one resident tests positive for COVID-19, the facility will be in outbreak status, and therefore prohibit visitors, for 14 days while COVID-19 testing occurs.

“At any given time, we could be shut out every fourteen days,” she said.




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