When COVID-19 locked down state-run care facilities, many families were denied access to loved ones and were left with more questions than answers.
“He’s not being held hostage, but I feel that way,” Jennifer McCarthy said. “It’s like, just let me see him.”
A very concerned mother of three, Jennifer McCarthy is talking about her 16-year old autistic son Logan, who has been receiving care at the Pinecrest facility in Alexandria following a stretch of aggressive and sometimes violent behavior last year.
“We have always planned on this being a temporary thing. We’re hoping that once we can get the behavior under control that Logan can come back home. We want him home. This is a matter of just trying to figure everything out, behavior modification.”
McCarthy previously made the two-hour drive to Pinecrest each week to see Logan, until COVID shut down all visits in March.
“That was terrible news for me, I was devastated. I was told that it was going to be April the 13th. And to me that felt like a lifetime, and I had to have the conversation with Logan that mommy can’t come. I know I told you I would, but I’m gonna be there April 13th.”
But that visit in April was not allowed based on a continuation of the no visitor policy, which remains in effect.
In a response released Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health issued the following:
“To preserve the health and safety of residents and staff at state-operated facilities, the Department of Health is not lifting current visitor restrictions at this time. We understand the emotional toll this policy may be taking on our residents and their families. However, we feel the risk of severe illness and adverse consequences are still high for these vulnerable residents.”
McCarthy still speaks with Logan on the phone, but says she can hear his frustration.
“FaceTime is not the same as touching and hugging, it’s just not, you know, you can see someone’s face but when you’re 16 years old and you’re away from family it’s not the same. I think he’s getting depressed. I think he’s giving up. I think he’s somewhat angry because I have in his mind, not followed my word. These kids are in a terrible situation because when you do have mental difficulties understanding things. you don’t have the ability to comprehend it like we do. it doesn’t make sense to you sometimes you can’t rationalize in your mind, you can’t rationalize why this is happening.”
She acknowledges the Pinecrest staff has helped Logan and they can’t change state policy, so she is looking to raise awareness for families who cannot visit their loved ones based on state guidelines.
“I’m not angry with anybody, I’m not pointing fingers, I’m not criticizing we’re all in this together, and nobody knows how to handle this. But I can tell you that this is not healthy. This is not the right way.”
Also in its statement on no visitation, LDH said it “will continue to assess the spread of COVID in congregate settings, and will continue to monitor federal policy and the medical community’s guidance to determine when it can consider lifting or modifying these requirements.”
You can read the full statement from LDH below:
To preserve the health and safety of residents and staff at state-operated facilities, the Department of Health is not lifting current visitor restrictions at this time. We understand the emotional toll this policy may be taking on our residents and their families. However, we feel the risk of severe illness and adverse consequences are still high for these vulnerable residents.
We continue to enforce CMS guidelines for visitors in nursing facilities as well as state-operated facilities, which serve many people with co-morbidities and underlying health conditions. We will continue to consider any circumstances that includes the health and well-being of an individual residing in our nursing homes and state-operated facilities.
Additionally, executive members of LDH reviewed the visitation restrictions with the Parents and Friends Association of Pinecrest by conference call. Although this continues to be a difficult situation for family members, the association understands the need to continue restrictions at this time. Family members continue to have video and audio access to their loved ones.
LDH will continue to assess the spread of COVID in our communities, nursing homes and other congregate settings, and will continue to monitor federal CMS policy and the medical community’s guidance to determine when we can consider lifting or modifying these requirements.