MILWAUKEE — Area nursing homes continue their push towards normalcy following a tough year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think seniors have been hunkered down. Because many are really afraid,” said Helen Marks-Dicks of AARP Wisconsin.
Hunkered down and taking precautions. Many seniors in assisted living facilities are longing for a return to the "normal" life they lived for years.
"The death rate in nursing homes has been horrendous, and that was an industry that has had a lot of problems before. The pandemic has made it worse,” Marks-Dicks said.
Health officials have eased some guidance for nursing homes, citing a sharp decline in death and infection rates.
From mid-January to mid-February, the average deaths per 100 nursing home residents nationally fell from 1.95 to 1.02.
Positive infection cases fell even more dramatically in that same time period: 9.2 to 3.5 per 100 residents.
Wisconsin's numbers are trending even better, with death rates and cases below the national average.
"For me, the vaccine was truly a blessing,” said Jennifer Whetter, who spent the past year trying to visit her husband Roy, who is in a Milwaukee nursing home.
With strict visitation rules for much of that time, she wasn't able to get into her husband's assisted living facility. She even pushed for the state to incorporate "essential caregiver" status.
It never happened, so she did the next best thing.
"Getting a job there, really, was my only solution,” Whetter said.
Whetter is now a part-time employee at St. Anne’s in Milwaukee. She says she is happy to be able to see her husband again. She also hopes with more Americans being vaccinated and with the new, relaxed CDC guidance released Wednesday, more people can soon reunite with their families.
“I can't imagine not celebrating the fact that this is almost over, or we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
A light many are enjoying seeing one year into a life-altering pandemic.
You can view CDC guidance here.