According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 48 percent of nursing home residents are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and among older adults in assisted living and other residential facilities, 42 percent have Alzheimer’s or related dementias. That is nearly half of all residents in care facilities. Their world is difficult to navigate on a good day.

Now add COVID-19 restrictions and imagine the devastation to those who do not understand why the routine they had is now so different. For the families that cannot visit as they used to and the swift-moving changes that occur without the tether of familiar routine, it’s even more heartbreaking. For those who have been able to care for their loved ones at home, the new world we are all in has greater challenges—finding respite care and services, for example.

When my own mother was in long-term care, I tried to visit at least twice a week. Her decline was noticeable on weeks when I couldn’t get there. The more interaction someone has with family and regular routine, the better they fare. Finding new ways to stay connected is so critical during this time. I cannot imagine being restricted as we are now.

In May, the Alzheimer’s Association’s long-term care policy recommendations highlighted the need for rapid-turnaround testing to ensure COVID-19 does not spread further in these care settings. Although access to testing has increased, the lack of access to rapid, point-of-care testing equipment and supplies have made it difficult to reopen safely for visitors. The only way to end social isolation is to ensure every long-term care community has access to rapid testing for all residents, staff and visitors.

Please join me in asking Gov. Little to ensure access to rapid testing for all long-term care communities in Idaho. Call the Governor’s Office at 208-334-2100. Thank you!

Gini Ballou, Alzheimer’s Association ambassador for Idaho Congressional District 2


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