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Seeing More Cognitive Decline, Advocates Ask Parson For Rapid COVID-19 Tests In Nursing Homes

Governor Tom Wolf

Alzheimer’s and senior advocates say they’re seeing a disturbing trend of more cognitive decline in nursing home residents since the facilities have been shut down to visitors and activities that stimulate the brain. The Greater Missouri Alzheimer’s Association is asking Governor Mike Parson to provide fast-acting COVID-19 tests for nursing homes to combat the loneliness. 

The Alzheimer’s Association wants all residents, staff, and visitors of nursing homes and long-term care facilities tested for COVID-19 with so-called “point of care” tests, which give results in about 15 minutes. 

Jerry Dowell, vice president for public policy for the association, said this type of testing would make it safer for visitors to see their loved ones in a facility. He says the social isolation many patients with dementia face during quarantine can lead to a decline in their condition. 

“It adds to the loneliness, it adds to depression, it adds to not understanding their situation,” Dowell told KSMU. 

Last month, the CEO of a Joplin nursing home where more than a dozen residents have died from COVID-19 said the loneliness and depression appears to be exacerbating cognitive decline among residents there, too.

"There's loneliness. Depression, as they have not been able to see their family. We've seen cognitive decline. And that's really across the entire organization, not just confined to Spring River," said Jake Bell, president and CEO of Christian Horizons, the parent company of Spring River Christian Village nursing home.

Bell says the lack of interaction with loved ones and visitors has likely exacerbated cognitive decline in some residents.

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.