Lynda King used to play with her granddaughter once a week on their frequent visits to the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL) on Admiral’s Hill.
It had become a way of life for her since moving there almost three years ago to treat her MS in the innovative home.
Then it all stopped on March 5, as nursing homes and facilities like the LFCFL closed down completely to all visitors, and residents – who had enjoyed mostly unlimited freedom there despite their conditions – were basically confined to their rooms.
On Monday morning, more than three months away from her son and granddaughter, Brian and Alivia, came to a welcome end. Nursing home in-person visits under careful, distancing protocols were able to resume under Gov. Charlie Baker’s Phase 2 plan for re-opening. At LFCFL, they began the visits last Thursday, and it has been a very emotional and thankful time since then.
“It was unbelievable,” said King. “It was a phenomenal feeling to see my son and granddaughter. They used to visit once a week. It was really tough not to see them. My granddaughter was so excited, but it was hard for her too…This was the longest three months ever. I was so used to being able to go to Market Basket if I wanted to. I would call The Ride and go to Home Depot. None of that was available. It was tough, but you had to believe it was going to end and you would see your family again and so it was going with the flow. You just had to keep a positive attitude.”
Residents and visitors aren’t allowed any contact, so no hugs or kisses like grandmothers are known for worldwide. Though Alivia followed the rules, it was confusing.
“She wanted to know if she could hug me and if I could kiss her if we both had on the mask,” said Lynda. “She’s 5 and didn’t get it. It’s sad in a way, but it was just great to see them again – at long last.”
Executive Director Mike McCarthy said it has been good to welcome back family for visits, even though it is kept to one visit every two weeks, and it has to be outside with no contact. While most have been able to use Zoom or Facetime with relatives, being able to see them in person has no match.
Before a visitor can proceed to the patio visiting area, they have to have their temperature checked and answer a questionnaire about their health. Visits are loosely supervised, and gifts can be brought but have to be handled by staff. Most of it has been dictated by the Department of Public Health (DPH).
“It’s been an amazing welcome back,” he said. “To see the tears flow is unbelievable. To be able to open that up to them has made them so happy and shows there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s given the staff, residents and families a boost in a very hard time.”
LFCFL, which houses a very vulnerable population of those with MS and ALS, was ahead of the curve in testing for COVID-19, and they have had no cases in four weeks.
“We had a little outbreak in the beginning and that’s it,” he said. “Every Friday, we test staff and residents. I’m a big believer in testing. Testing really helped us. A lot of facilities weren’t able to do that. We started earlier than most facilities too. We’ve been testing since the beginning of March.”
For Lynda King, she said it’s great to be able to get outside, and see family again. She celebrated her birthday in April, but couldn’t have the normal celebration with other LFCFL residents and her family.
Now, however, she said she hopes to make up for all that was lost. “You just had to deal with it,” she said. “There was nothing else you could do.”