CHICO, Calif. – All across the country and here at home, many are now experiencing the realities of being separated from senior loved ones. In efforts to protect residents and staff from the coronavirus, health guidelines have dictated senior nursing homes, memory care and assisted living facilities, limit access of visitors to essential staff only.
Family members are no longer allowed inside for visits, which is creating an emotionally difficult reality for many families.
That is also the case for Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough. She recently shared a touching photo of a visit with her elderly mother; a photo which touched-off a big response on social media.
Yarbough is the primary caregiver for her almost 90-year old mother. The photo posted to social media; a selfie; captured Yarbough talking with her mother; through a window of the care facility she currently resides.
“That day, she broke down in tears,” explains Yarbough. “I asked her why she was crying. She said she felt extremely sad. She told me she was glad to be able to see me but that she couldn’t hug me or touch me. It broke my heart.”
That experience is shared by many other families whose loved ones are no longer able to accept family visitors.
Cynthia Robinson knows the feeling all too well. Her husband, Ed, is also in facility care. A husband, father and retired CHP officer, he suffers from Dementia. The daily visits by Robinson to spend time with her husband, have stopped.
“You feel guilty, because they’re there and you’re home and you can’t get there, and the only way you can talk to them is by phone or skype with them,” explains Robinson.
Robinson says now, not only does she worry about the daily care and well-being of her husband but she also now has a more emotional fear.
“They have memory problems and you don’t want them to forget who you are by not seeing you on a daily basis,” says Robinson. “I’m afraid he’s going to lose more of his memory and forget who I am.”
It is much the same story for Lori Monaco. She and her family are in Florida but are experiencing similar angst. Her 92-year old father now resides in a V.A. hospital. The World-War Two veteran suffers from memory loss and can no longer have visits from family.
The challenges of being separated from elderly family members is perhaps on display now, more than ever. Several high-profile cases involving the coronavirus breaking out at senior care facilities, leading to the deaths of residents and the infection of staff and clients, has many on edge about the safety of loved ones.
For Art Leonard, whose mother lives in an assisted living in Orland, there is perhaps a small positive aspect.
He says his mother Delores suffers from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. He says even in the best of times, there are moments when she doesn’t remember incidents or family. He says his hope is that during this time, perhaps his mother will not feel the separation as deeply because she is not fully aware of what is happening.
“It’s a good thing and a bad thing. Emotionally though, it is taking a toll on the family; it’s a bit difficult.”
For families in this situation, there are no easy answers. Care facility staff and family are trying to balance the health and safety of elders, with the pain of being apart.
Robinson says, despite the difficulties, she would rather her husband be safe and have a reduced risk of getting sick.