Long-term care officials told Oklahoma lawmakers Wednesday that more needs to be done to allow in-person visitation at nursing homes and other facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an interim study on COVID-19’s impact on residents in long-term care facilities hosted by the House of Representatives subcommittee on health services, officials said residents are facing increased depression, anxiety and symptoms of dementia because of the prolonged isolation.

In many cases, residents at these facilities have been locked down since March.

And the state’s ombudsman agency, which includes individuals who investigate complaints of abuse or neglect in nursing homes, has also been restricted from entering facilities for fear of spreading COVID-19.

“All of a sudden, almost in the blink of an eye, facilities were basically allowed to operate with little to no presence from outsiders,” said state ombudsman William Whited. “And that causes great concern.”

Kevin Stinson, whose mother recently died from extreme weight loss and dehydration after spending more than 16 weeks isolated in her nursing home, told lawmakers that he knows of several other Oklahomans worried about their loved ones facing neglect.

“The same story is being played out … across the state by residents who have no voice, and families can’t get a true account of what is happening in these facilities,” Stinson said. The Oklahoman detailed Stinson’s struggles in a July 26 story.

Federal and state laws do guarantee a resident’s right to visitation, but those laws were suspended because of the pandemic, Whited told the House subcommittee.

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