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Vaccine closes gap for long-term care patients and loved ones who haven’t been able to visit

For people like Ken Deutsch, the coronavirus vaccine offers an opportunity to close the gap between him and his wife

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Ken Deutsch's wife, Diane, who has Alzheimer's disease, has lived at Dolan Memory Care Homes for five years.

“She's not communicative,” he said. “She whispers, but she does still know me, recognize me and that's still of some comfort.”

The COVID-19 vaccine will be especially meaningful for people like Deutsch.

“I used to go to see my wife every day,” he said. “It's been especially hard on me because obviously I can't do that or anything near it. There was a period at the beginning where I didn't see her for about four months, and that was hard.”

Tim Dolan owns 16 Dolan Memory Care Homes in the St. Louis area. He said they partnered with Walgreens, and they are scheduled for vaccinations in the second or third week of January. CVS also previously said it would begin administering COVID-19 vaccines for long-term care facilities in Missouri the week of Dec. 28.

Dolan said residents’ relatives are eager for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Yes, very eager,” said Dolan. “We have a lot of folks that communicate weekly or daily about what's going on with their loved ones – through photos, videos, FaceTime – but everybody is really excited about the ability to visit one-on-one with their loved ones.”

For people like Deutsch, the coronavirus vaccine offers an opportunity to close the gap between him and a loved one.

“It's just a matter of waiting until everybody gets the vaccine, and I hope everybody gets the vaccine,” he said. “And then we can open up.”

Tracie Lucas is administrator of Town and Country Health & Rehab. Even though this SRZ Management facility is skilled nursing, they are not scheduled to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to about 275 residents and staff until Jan. 11.

“I was hoping to get it sooner,” said Lucas. “But it's kind of like the lottery – you get picked when you get picked.”

Dolan is expecting vaccines at about the same time.

“We are assisted living, so we are the third wave of vaccinations that will occur. And that will happen in second to third week of January. That will be our first visit of three visits that we'll be getting," he explained.

Lucas was asked what she’s hearing from residents’ relatives.

“It's about 50/50, to be honest,” she said. “There are some residents and family members who are just scared of the unknown. They've already told me they're not going to get vaccinated, and I've tried to educate them about the advancements in medicine.”

But Lucas also knows people who are excited about the opportunity.

“It's weighed heavily on my heart this last year,” she said. “We're coming up on a year anniversary here that I've watched residents and family members suffer because they can't be together.”


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