ORLAND, Calif. -- Covid-19 has hit our nation's senior population hard in the numbers of deaths, illnesses and emotionally.
For months, families across the country have been prevented from in-person visits with loved ones, due to health and safety concerns.
But a local assisted living facility in Orland is moving to resume to ‘normal.’ It has had zero cases of illness. Because of that and the directors say having worked closely with the Glenn County Public Health Department on guidance and protocol, it now has the green light to resume in-person family visits; with restrictions.
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough spent time at Westhaven Senior Living in Orland, to learn more about the return of in-person family visits.
Director Wade Elliott explained the areas where family will be allowed to visit with clients, is outfitted with plastic face shields and hand sanitizer; table and chairs are spaced apart.
“We’re so excited that we can open back up and see families get together,” explained Elliott. “It has been too long for these reunions of people who haven’t seen each other for a very long time.”
Those safety steps, coupled with a several month record of reporting no illness, regular testing of clients and staff, and no cases of the coronavirus within the ranks, have allowed the facility to make a return to allowing family to see and talk directly with loved ones.
They are not allowed physical contact but the proximity is a welcome change.
Michael Mattone arrived at the facility to visit his elderly aunt, Viola. He says he had not seen her for several months.
As the two sat across the table from one another, a large smile spread across Viola’s face; clearly happy to see family.
“I’m just sitting here visualizing you,” Mattone told his aunt. “And it is already embedded in my memory.”
“And that’s a good thing, because I miss you, we miss our families; we had a good time together,” responded Viola.
Wade explains how the facility has moved through the season trying to stay one step in front of the coronavirus and how the pandemic would impact clients and their care.
"When this first started back in March, we thought, okay, we'll get through this,” he explained. “Then it was going to be a few weeks, then a few months. Then we realized we can't do this forever, so we had to figure out what we can do.”
Mattone says the change is positive, as it allows him to see his aunt and the visits mean the world to her as well.
“It has been really hard because, for them, they don’t get to see us,” says Mattone. “For us, we see a lot of people. They can’t get out and go and do things. It’s just really special to be able to see her.”
The emotional toll of months of covid-19 related restrictions is not only impacting elderly clients. For those tasked with caring for seniors, the situation has been difficult as well.
Yarbough spoke with one woman who did not wish to be identified, but she has spent several years working at a local senior care facility.
It is not just a job, it is back-breaking work. You're having to lift a person to help them get assistance or other care. By eight hours, you're burnt,” she explains.
Yarbough asked how this situation impacts elders.
“Many are in a really sad state, they are tired, frustrated, and agitated.”
Elliott says the roll of senior care is to provide not only physical help and safety but also emotional well-being; something which has suffered this year.
"Many of them feel abandoned, those are the exact words they are using,” he says. “They ask, ‘why did my children abandon me? Where are my friends?”
Elliott says he believes the covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact, senior care facilities must do more to protect clients, but not at the expense of making they feel they have been put in jail.”
Keeping clients safe will be a top priority for staff at Westhaven, including face covering and social distancing to promote safety.
In-person visits resume Saturday, October 17th, 2020.