Upstate woman pushing for ‘essential caregiver privileges’ in terms of nursing home visitation

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SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – An upstate woman is demanding change to the new nursing home visitation guidelines in South Carolina and she’s not alone.

In fact, she’s part of a growing rally to allow essential caregivers inside nursing homes. This comes as Governor Henry McMaster announces changes to the visitation restrictions.

Governor Henry McMaster announced Tuesday afternoon that nursing homes in the state can once again accept visitors but strict rules will be in place, including limiting those visits to outside.

Vickie McKelvey thinks the move to allow outdoor visitation is a step in the right direction, but she has some concerns about the fine print- like visitors having to be tested within a certain time frame of their visit. That also includes having enough staff to accommodate the visits.

“Even for 15 minutes, I can’t imagine having a grandma out in 90 degree weather,” Vickie McKelvey said.

It’s a battle Vickie McKelvey has been dealing with since March.

“It’s inhumane to leave them in there in isolation,” said McKelvey

She told 7 News, she has been watching her grandma who she calls ‘mom,’ struggle with loneliness and isolation in the last couple of months through a glass window. She said the final straw was her 93rd birthday.

“We had went to see her on her birthday with balloons and cake. The only thing she could tell me is, ‘get me out of here,'” McKelvey told us.

That’s why McKelvey chose to bring her home, shortly after her mom tested positive for COVID. They have been self-isolating there since.

But even though her mom is out of the facility, she said the fight is far from over.

“We’re wanting an essential caregiver to be allowed in, to love and care for them. It would benefit the staff, way benefit the resident and for us too because we stress, and have anxiety and worry about them,” said McKelvey.

Some medical professionals like Dr. Christian Montagano told 7 News, these baby steps to get people reunited with their loved ones in nursing home facilities, are necessary to keep vulnerable populations safe from the pandemic. However he said, the isolation can take a major toll on someone’s health.

“I’m sure it plays a small part in their physical health. Emotionally, I’m sure that’s a stressor for them which could potentially weaken their immune system and open up the possibility of illness for them as well,” said EmergencyMD Physician, Dr. Christian Montagano.

That’s why McKelvey told us it’s so important to make her voice heard. She believes essential caregivers like herself should have privileges to get inside.

“Making them feel like a human again, that’s going to make all the difference. I can’t tell you that the cases are still not going to go up if we get to go in, but we won’t know until we try that,” McKelvey told us.

Adding, being able to show her mom love once again, has gone a long way.

In just a matter of weeks, she plans to be rallying through a peaceful protest outside of the South Carolina State Capitol. That’s scheduled for September 12 at 10 A.M.

McKelvey said her mom has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19.

Something else worth mentioning is that these visitations will not start immediately. The facilities need to submit a plan to DHEC before getting started.

You can find more information on Governor McMaster’s latest announcement regarding visitation at nursing home facilities here.

Additionally, you can find a previous story from 7 News on Vickie McKelvey’s grandmother here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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