Vaccinations increase in area nursing homes: ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel’

Coronavirus

FAIRPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said last week about 80% of residents in nursing homes have received the COVID-19 vaccine in our area. About 50 to 60% of staff in nursing homes have received the vaccine as well.

Karen Walker has a mother who is a resident at Crest Manor and Rehabilitation Center in Fairport. Her mother has dementia, which makes connecting hard. She’s been sending a lot of cards. “She’s hard of hearing, her eyesight is not good, and she cannot operate a phone.”

Walker says she’d be comfortable if visitation was allowed again. It’s been almost a year since she saw her mother in-person, in her room. She says the staff make residents feel at home and welcomed, but nothing can replace family one-on-one time. “I think they need to open up, the emotional health of a residents is very important.”

Director of Nursing at Crest Manor Paula Bokman says their home sets an example of the preparedness needed to move forward for eased restrictions. She says the home does everything to keep things safe, keep residents mentally well and updated with the ever-changing guidelines, and help them with Zoom visits.

But even with all the work that’s done to cope, Bokman says staff and residents have expressed they’d like to move forward. She believes they can do so safely after months of educating residents and staff, and months of communication with county health leaders.

“We want to continue to see us move forward, we have a good repour with the Department of Health, close communication with them if we have any COVID questions, questions on what we need to do, they have been very accessible to us which is great,” said Bokman.

“Residents are excited to move forward, we have council meetings, we communicate over Zoom meetings with families, we do meet with residents regularly keep them up to date on any changes taking place,” she said. “We’re looking forward to allowing families to come back, I know how difficult it’s been not being able to see loved ones, that is one of the goals we want to see happen here.”

Any change in visitation policy must come from the state. But as vaccinate rate increases, and nursing homes continue to prepare and educate staff as best they can, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mendoza says it’s appropriate to explore lifting visitation restrictions ‘very seriously.’

“My concern is that vaccination among staff lags,” he said. “The one thing we can do to stack odds in our favor, is work with those nursing homes, ultimately the people that work in the homes, do what we can to improve vaccination rate,” the public health commissioner said.

“With all those measures in place, I think we can very safely reopen nursing home visitation, continue to test, follow precautions. It’s undeniable that our loved ones living in nursing homes need and want that connection.”

“The heart and emotions of a person are more important than the physical,” said Walker. “A lot of nursing home people at the end of their lives want to be with families for time they have left.”

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