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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Michigan relaxing safety guidelines for families to visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities

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Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 20:28:10-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan is finally relaxing some safety rules when it comes to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

And it’s welcome news to thousands of families.

WAITING GAME

It’s happened to families all over the state. They're forced to visit their loved ones through doors and windows because of COVID, and it’s been that way for more than a year.

There are still some restrictions in place, but this is a healing step forward for those who’ve waited so long for human contact.

VISIT WITH MOM

“I’m thinking she probably thought she was dreaming because she hasn’t seen us in over a year,” said Karen Lynema of Jenison.

Her mom, Pat Vander Weide, has been at St. Ann’s home in Grand Rapids since June 2019.

Karen visited her on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the first day she’s been with her in person since the pandemic started.

“So, it was kinda cool,” said Lynema, “then I started crying right away because I could at least be in her room, which was nice because we haven’t even been able to do that. A lot of the pictures on TV haven’t shown that it’s plexiglass and six feet away, and you might not be able to hug or touch or anything and still wear gloves and all that.”

Her mom’s been vaccinated, but they still had to wear masks.

Karen and her sister visited on Pat’s birthday earlier this month, celebrating her 78th trip around the sun on March 11.

Families and visitors have to sign up online for open slots, but Karen tells me there are only four a day.

“I held her hand and I talked to her and I cried some more and she cried a little bit and we had a really nice visit,” said Lynema. “It was an hour-long. We talked about her pretend cat and all that kinda stuff, took some pictures and some video, and shared with my brothers and my sisters because they’re kinda bummed out it’s only one person at a time.”

Karen's thankful the doors have been propped open in Michigan and says she's praying for those that are not.

“We are making progress slowly,” she said.

She also posted on Facebook that many prayers were recently answered, and despite some of the rules still in place they are nowhere near as restrictive as they were.

ST. ANN’S UPDATE

COVID tests are not required to visit St. Ann’s, but the state is strongly asking people to consider having one.

They do administer temperature checks, and if any resident tests positive, they cannot have visitors for 14 days.

At the peak of the pandemic St. Ann's dealt with 53 positive cases, but right now there are none.

Karen, like other family members, is just excited to finally be side by side with their loved ones even if it’s just 60 minutes at a time.

“I just cried and was like, ‘Mom, I missed you so much,’ and she’s like, ‘I missed you too.’ But I don’t think she knows how long it’s been, which is kind of--we refer to it as 'blissfully ignorant,' so she doesn’t necessarily know how long it’s been, which for her is a good thing, but there are a lot of people there that do.”

FUTURE VISITS

Visits to the nursing unit at St. Ann’s opened back up Tuesday with assisted living visits open on Friday March 19.

Karen’s brother celebrates his birthday next week, so she’s hoping he’s able to get in with his mom for that hour.

READ MORE: State health department updates order for residential care facilities

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