From The New York Times:
The day had finally arrived.
After nearly a year in lockdown for the residents of Good Shepherd Nursing Home — eating meals in their rooms, playing bingo over their television sets and isolating themselves almost entirely from the outside world — their coronavirus vaccinations were finished and the hallways were slowly beginning to reawaken.
In a first, tentative glimpse at what the other side of the pandemic might look like, Betty Lou Leech, 97, arrived to the dining room early, a mask on her face, her hair freshly curled.
“I’m too excited to eat,” she said, sitting at her favorite table once again.
It has been a miserable year for American nursing homes. More than 163,000 residents and employees of long-term care facilities have died from the coronavirus, about one-third of all virus deaths in the United States. Infections have swept through some 31,000 facilities and nearly all have had to shut down in some way.
For more than a million residents of nursing homes, the lockdowns themselves have been devastating. Cut off from family and largely confined to their rooms, many residents lost weight and saw ailments worsen. Some grew increasingly confused. Others sank into depression and despair.
“In terms of people’s happiness — anybody’s happiness — those social connections are right at the top of importance, if not the most important thing,” said Robyn Grant, of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, who said that even small steps, like being able to spend more time with fellow residents, “would be huge.”
West Virginia has emerged as one of the first states to finish giving two doses of vaccines to the thousands of people inside its nursing homes, so Good Shepherd, a 192-bed Catholic home in Wheeling, was among the first facilities in the country to begin tiptoeing back toward normalcy this past week.
The first day back was full of ordinary moments: small talk over coffee, bidding wars at an afternoon auction, a game of dice. But after a year of loss, loneliness and disruption, the very ordinariness of it all brought joy and relief…
… Good Shepherd shut down in March, even before the virus had been found in West Virginia. Residents went without visits with loved ones, outings to the movies, even fresh air.
“I felt really lost,” said Joseph Wilhelm, 89, a retired priest who said he had found it difficult to concentrate on prayer.