To the Editor:
After meeting my best friend at our 50th class reunion, we rekindled a relationship shortly after our spouses had died. We were married a year later as the love for each other was still there. Eight years later, he was diagnosed with dementia. For the last two years he has resided in a memory care unit in Sioux Falls. I visited every day. He is a joy to be with because he has a wonderful sense of humor, a positive attitude, and a caring personality.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, conditions changed. I had no contact with him for over two months.
Tom was confused as to why I didn’t visit him anymore. With his very serious hearing problems, using a phone was almost impossible. Staff had to bring their own personal phones and turn on the speaker and make the call. Calls were infrequent, although always welcoming. Our nine children, living in several distant states, were unable to contact him. I also observed emotional and physical changes in other residents of the care center.
In the last several weeks, steps have been taken to slowly allow visiting. We make an appointment, meet outside facing each other, but have to sit apart. Although the staff has been very creative in providing various activities and outings, physical fitness has also declined.
Caretakers and families feel stress when they observe the declining health of their loved ones. Long-term care facilities in June and July did testing for COVID-19 throughout the state, but more needs to be done. I’m joining the South Dakota Alzheimer’s Association to ask our state to provide rapid, point-of-care testing equipment and supplies to all nursing homes and assisted living centers to allow them to reopen safely for visitors like me.
This is the only way to end social isolation. Please, Gov. Kristi Noem — help our long-term care communities get the testing supplies they need.