Local Families Find Hardship Trying to Visit Loved Ones in Nursing Homes During COVID

Some facilities only allow visitors to visit with residents for 15 minutes at a time

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Snapping selfies is an art for Caryn Michaels. She’s made sure to take one every time she and her mom visit her dad, Gary, since he moved into a nursing home in Delray Beach two years ago.

Since the pandemic hit in March, pictures and FaceTime chats have taken the place of in-person visits, which weighs heavily on Caryn.

“We had his birthday and his anniversary and all these special occasions that we weren’t able to see him other than through the window by his room,” Caryn said.

Nursing homes reopened last month, under safety guidelines put forth by the state: visitors have to wear PPE, make an appointment, and only essential caregivers can have close contact. That last rule is so heartbreaking for Caryn, she hasn’t yet made an appointment to see her father.

“For my dad, for our situation, it’s cruel, cruel and unusual punishment as far as I’m concerned. How can I see a man who is declining and not hug him?“ Caryn asked.

Caryn's parents

It’s even worse for her mother. Her parents have been married for 50 years.

“She’s in the higher-risk category, she’s scared to death, she doesn’t want to go anywhere near the nursing home, which is really hard for her mentally," Caryn said.

Employees say the guidelines are working well at places like John Knox Village in Pompano Beach, where visitors have been spending time with residents for more than a month now.

“As much as caregivers build relationships with the elders and get to know them, there’s nothing like family,” said Mark Rayner, Director of Health Services at John Knox Village.

Each assisted living facility or nursing home makes its own rules about whether the visits are indoors or outdoors and how long they can last. At the facility where Gary is, Caryn says the visits can only be 15 minutes long.

For now, Caryn is waiting until she can get close to her dad. She prays that by Thanksgiving, the rule to keep a safe distance, is rolled back.

“I just want to hug him, I just want to hug my dad. I haven’t been able to hug him in over seven months. We don’t want him to leave this world without being able to see him again,” Caryn said.

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