MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - For the first time in over a year, a Conway family was finally able to hug their mother inside of a nursing home facility.
The Zeman siblings, Donnie, John, Donna and Lorie, had been fighting to see their mother, Faith, inside the nursing home for quite some time.
Faith, 87, beat COVID-19, but her family has been unable to embrace her because of the visitation restrictions on long-term care facilities over the past year.
“It has been a year since we could hug our mom,” said Donnie Zeman. “I feel for anyone that has to watch their loved one suffer looking through a window.”
But things changed last month after the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control updated its visitation policy for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
DHEC instructed nursing home facilities to allow in-person visitations if they met specific safety standards, including:
- A less than or equal to 10% positivity rate in the county in which the facility is located, based on DHEC’s data
- No COVID-19 cases among staff and/or residents in the past 14 days
- Maintained the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention
Shortly after that happened, the Zeman family received a call from the nursing home, stating the siblings could now schedule an appointment to see Faith in person.
The family made an appointment the next day to come to the nursing home, so they could stretch their arms wide and finally hug their mom.
Faith’s other son, John, described the moment as simply unforgettable.
“It was weird to the mind just to be able to walk up to her and touch her again,” he said. “It was weird for her too. She felt like we were strangers until we talked up to her. Then she realized who was hugging her and she pretty much melted in my arms. She loves when I played the piano for her. She’ll sing the words to songs.”
“It was breathtaking,” Donnie said. “I almost felt like I was doing something wrong to go up and put my arms around her. But it was just refreshing.”
The Zemans said they’re probably permitted to visit their mother every day for about 30 minutes.
They’re required to call first to make an appointment before they can see her in person.
Now that their mother is vaccinated and visitations are allowed, her children feel better about everyone getting closer to a life of normalcy.
“We’re pleased, we’re happy to be at this stage,” said Donnie. “Having that separation, it confused her, but with us now [being permitted to visit her], I do see a change in her attitude and behavior, now that she can have that hug.”
Although the family is excited about the facility allowing in-person visitations, they are cautious about what the future could hold.
Per DHEC requirements, nursing homes must not have any confirmed COVID-19 cases with staff or residents within the past 14-day period.
That means if a case arises, in-person visits must temporarily stop.
“We’re prepared because of what we been through this whole year,” John said. “Nothing can surprise us and I’m prepared for whatever they tell us.”
Although the Zemans can see their mother face-to-face right now, there are still restrictions as to where that embrace can take place.
As of now, the visits occur in the dining hall area or outdoors.
The family hopes visitations will soon be allowed within their mother’s normal room space in the near future.