Families reunited during outdoor visits at some senior care facilities

Posted at 2:57 PM, Jun 08, 2020

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — For months now, we’ve all seen the touching images of seniors communicating with their loved ones by phone call or through the windows of nursing homes.

Monday brings relief for families who haven’t seen their senior relatives since mid-March as Gov. Mike DeWine is permitting outdoor face-to-face visits at independent and assisted living facilities as part of his plan to gradually reopen Ohio.

Three months have felt like a lifetime for Sheryl Butler and her mother Gloria Newman.

“Prior to COVID, I was visiting her every single day,” Butler said.

Due to the pandemic, visitors in Ohio have not been allowed inside senior independent and assisted living facilities in an effort to protect the most at-risk population from contracting COVID-19.

“It’s been very difficult for us to not allow these visits and not allow their loved ones to come in knowing that this is maybe one of the last places that they live,” Nancy Sutula said.

Sutula is the Vice President of Residential Services at Menorah Park in Beachwood and has helped facilitate digital communication between residents and their families.

In May, Newman celebrated her 90th birthday with greetings from loved ones on a Zoom conference call.

“Sending gifts up to her all day long and I would run home after she got a gift,” Butler said. “The aid, whoever it was, would contact me and she would open the gifts on the phone.”

The mother-daughter duo held a belated celebration Monday with the much-awaited gift of face-to-face conversation.

“No touching, which is going to be sort of hard to do,” Butler said. “But I welcome this and I’m very excited about it.”

Per DeWine’s latest orders, visitors are still not allowed at nursing homes and are not permitted inside senior independent and assisted living facilities, but outdoor visits at assisted living facilities are welcomed with proper PPE and health screening of both the residents and visitors beforehand.

“Temperatures taken as well as questions asked to make sure that they are not feeling ill,” Sutula said. “Everyone has to have a face covering on while they visit and they should be socially distanced of six feet or more.”

Additionally, DeWine is ordering designated hours to be scheduled for those outdoor visits at assisted living facilities and encourages visitors to call ahead before visiting residents.

“So that way we have the time frame to allow every resident to have a visitor if they choose,” Sutula said.

If a resident is in hospice care, visitors are allowed inside senior care facilities for end-of-life visits following proper health screenings.