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Communication Mixed as Nursing Homes Limit Visitation Due To COVID-19

Nash Jones
Sign at entrance to assisted living facility lobby informing public of new visitation restrictions

The New Mexico Department of Health on Mar. 13 restricted visitation to nursing facilities, whose residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. New Mexicans with loved ones who they can’t see now say communication, both from the facility and with their relatives, has been mixed.

Usually, Shawn Brennan visits her 91-year-old mother three times a week in an independent living facility in Albuquerque, but now all visitation to the facility has cut off. “It’s kind of thrown her into a tizzy,” said Brennan, “as well as all of us.” 

Brennan says the facility has been communicative with families, calling and sending letters, as well as with the residents themselves. 

Amanda Dick-Peddie has a 94-year-old grandmother in an assisted living facility in Las Cruces, which she says was not nearly as communicative about ending visitation. Her dad, who she says visits his mom daily, got there last weekend to find locked doors and a “no more visitors” sign. “Then he tried to call the manager”, she said. “I think someone eventually came out and told him there would be no way to see her.”  

Both facilities are no longer allowing residents to eat together, cutting off that social contact. Shawn Brennan says she understands and supports the policy but fears the isolation could cause depression. 

Both Brennan and Dick-Peddie have been able to stay in touch with their loved ones from afar with the help of technology, like texting and video calls, though it doesn’t always go smoothly. “We have seen more of her belly and the ceiling than we do contact,” Brennan said. “We all tease her, but she’s doing the best that she can.” 

It’s not yet clear when the public health order will be lifted.


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and from KUNM listeners like you.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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