Advocates are asking Gov. Bill Lee to supply Tennessee’s long-term care facilities with rapid coronavirus testing, with the goal of being able to reunite residents with their families faster.
Since early spring, long-term care facilities across the state have closed their doors to visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rachel Blackhurst, public policy and advocacy director with the Alzheimer’s Association’s Tennessee Chapter, said because social isolation among people with dementia can speed decline and worsen cognitive abilities, having access to rapid-turnaround testing is critical for residents, staff and visitors.
She added that individuals with dementia may not be able to use Zoom or other video technologies or be responsive over the phone.
“And while Tennessee has actually done a really, really good job with mobilizing testing and requiring weekly testing for facilities, we’ve seen a decline in how quickly those results come back, and it hasn’t helped with opening facilities up for visitation,” Blackhurst said.
Nearly half of the state’s nursing home residents are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and among older adults in assisted living and other residential facilities, 42% have some form of dementia. Tennessee has 700 long-term care facilities.
Photo: Social isolation can worsen cognitive ability and lead to premature death in older adults. (Adobe Stock)