Some nursing homes loosening restrictions to let loved ones see family members

ATLANTA — After more than a year, families across the metro said they are finally able to see their loved ones in nursing homes.

So many have been kept apart over the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon found while some families are reuniting, others are still kept apart.

While restrictions have been eased, Wilfon learned that restrictions still vary from facility to facility.

More than 4,000 people have died of coronavirus complications in the state’s long-term care facilities. So for these families, reuniting feels like a miracle.

Angel and Zakery Ceasar reunited with Zack Ceasar’s mother at her nursing home in north Fulton County after she struggled to beat the coronavirus last summer.

“The emotion came out. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of cries, a lot of just, ‘I love yous.’ So it was definitely a very overwhelming, joyous reunion,” Angel Ceasar said.

“Every day that goes by with someone in her condition having several strokes, you don’t want to lose a day with them. And we lost a whole year,” Zakery Ceasar said.

TRENDING STORIES

Like so many families, the Ceasars were able to reunite inside the nursing home after the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services loosened restrictions on visitation in nursing homes nationwide.

“It was very emotional for her. She didn’t know we were coming. So as they wheeled her into the room, it was a nice, big surprise for her,” Angel Ceasar said.

But some Georgia families are still waiting for other nursing homes to cut back on restrictions.

“It’s really frustrating because it’s been a year, over a year, since we’ve been able to go inside to visit,” said Denis Franks.

She gave Wilfon pictures of a visit with her mom at a nursing home in Coweta County this week. But it was outside and with a plastic barrier between them.

“It was a makeshift type … what they call their hug bubble,” Franks said. “It wasn’t the reunion that we expected to have.”

The Georgia Healthcare Association, which represents nursing homes across the state, told Wilfon that certain factors can still limit visitations, including the percentage of vaccinated residents, new COVID-19 cases inside a nursing home and the number of cases in the county the nursing home is in.

The Ceasar family told Wilfon that for more families to reunite with people like Zackery Ceasar’s mother, vaccinations are the key.

“She was fully vaccinated, and she had really no reactions whatsoever. We advise everyone to get it,” Zakery Ceasar said.

The Georgia Healthcare Association stated nursing homes need to have enough staff to oversee the visitations to make sure they’re done safely. This includes things like the proper screening of visitors.

If they don’t have enough staff, that’s another reason the reunions may not happen yet.