OLATHE, Kan. — Emotional reunions are unfolding are some metro nursing homes, after nearly a year in lockdown.
“I just look forward to every minute I have now. It’s almost like you take it for granted and that’s what’s really hard. I’m so thankful now,” Megan Miller said, whose mother lives in a nursing home.
This comes as The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living report COVID outbreaks in nursing homes are at the lowest since the pandemic began with a dramatic 82% drop in cases.
Judy Kellner is 73 and lives here at Nottingham Health & Rehab in Olathe. She suffered a brain aneurysm and stroke in 2004. Two years ago, her daughter Megan Miller realized she couldn’t care for her mom anymore.
“We’ve definitely had to fight our battles to be strong,” Miller said.
She never imagined visits would become off limits a year later during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It just broke my heart because she was confused saying, ‘Why aren’t you coming up to see me?’” Miller said.
Nottingham is lucky it has been able to keep COVID-19 case counts low. The first case didn’t happen until late August, and not a single resident there has died from the virus.
Window visits have been allowed but it wasn’t an option for Megan’s mom, who is legally blind and those visits proved too confusing.
“I didn’t know if I was going to see her again and that was the most gut-wrenching thing ever,” Miller said.
Early this year, 100% of residents, and 85% of staff became fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
”As soon as it was available, they stepped up and said this is what I need to do to keep everyone safe in this building,” said Megan Hudlin, Nottingham Health & Rehabilitation administrator.
So in February, Nottingham decided it could safely allow in-person indoor visits.
“I cried the first family that came into see the residents. It was waterworks and I was so happy we were able to do that,” Hudlin said.
Only two visitors over age 12 are allowed per resident at a time and must make appointments.
They have to sign in, get a temperature check, then either show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 24-hours or come here to get a rapid test.
Even though masks and distancing are still required, for Megan Miller, seeing her mom again face-to-face means the world.
“I just want to see her. I don’t care what I have to do, even if it’s for 10 minutes. I’m so thankful,” Miller said.
Nottingham is a smaller facility with just 28 residents. But it’s hoping to be an example for how visits can safely happen in long-term care facilities, so that other care centers will soon be able to re-open for visits too, which are such a critical lifeline to the wellbeing of these seniors.