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Together again: Mom can have visits at nursing home

The pandemic has caused problems and pain for many people.

One issue that was impossible to avoid was the distance it created between everyone.

But things are looking up, as more vaccinations are being administered daily, and restrictions are continuing to be loosened by the state.

Families are long overdue to be together again.

Stephen Opiela is excited to visit his mother this weekend for Mother’s Day at the Hometown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Tamaqua.

It was just a few weeks ago that he was finally able to visit his mother, Ruth Opiela, 99, inside of the building since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s very hard to talk to her, but she smiles, and she knows who I am,” Stephen sad. “They do a great job there with my mom.”

During the peak of the pandemic, many other families much like the Opielas, couldn’t get close to their loved ones.

“We only had once a week visits - 15 minutes and we had to go by the window,” Stephen added.

In Nesquehoning, Maple Shade Meadows continues to take another step toward normalcy.

“Our first event where we are opening up to the families to enjoy is Saturday,” said Collen Cadden of Maple Shade Meadows. “We’re having a Mother’s Day event to celebrate all of our ladies and their families.”

Cadden said the venue hosted three vaccine clinics over the last couple of months.

“We were very fortunate last year. We didn’t have COVID here all year and it finally hit us in December,” said Cadden.

“I don’t think any place could escape it. But before that, we were able to have limited visits from families in a designated space. It was near our front entrance where we call our family room. But they couldn’t hug them.”

Last Mother’s Day, there were no visitations - not even in a designated area. But now, it’s goodbye to the FaceTime videos and window visits that the venue was incorporating throughout the pandemic.

“We have had in-room visitation for a couple of weeks now. We’re still keeping guidelines and all of the screening and mask protocols. But at least they can come in and hug their loved one,” Cadden said.

“Positive energy is doing a world of good for them. Their spirits are up, they’re having more conversations and coming out to activities. Mentally, it’s doing a world of difference for them.”

Today’s event will feature a pop-up boutique, massage sand even mimosas.

“We’re really looking forward to continued events,” Cadden said. “We are going to plan at least one or two each month, where we have the families and community come in. Our calendar is filling up for the summer and we are excited.”

Mrs. Bush’s Personal Care Homes in Kunkletown updated its visitation policy on Friday - perfect timing with Mother’s Day weekend knocking on the door.

“It’s been emotional,” said Jessica Scheffner, administrator. “Just this morning, I saw one of our 94 year-old residents reconnected with two of her great grandchildren. They had a visit outside. It breaks your heart, but it’s so happy at the same time. It’s been long overdue and it’s necessary at this point.”

Scheffner said many procedures and protocols are still in place and that a high percentage of residents are fully vaccinated.

Over the past year, there were visitations in designated areas from time to time, but families had to be masked and six feet apart.

“Imagine residents with vision issues, hearing issues or dementia, and they’re trying to communicate with someone six feet away from them with a mask on their face,” Scheffner said.

“The point we are at now, we still have to educate everyone, but now they can go directly to their loved one’s room and can visit in the privacy of their room. For those who are fully vaccinated, they have the option, right and freedom to have close contact. They can hug, touch and have that connection again.”

The COVID case rate has decreased this week, but there has been a surge of positive energy across the region.

“They’re talking about what they have to look forward to,” Scheffner said. “Mother’s Day is such a special time and it has so many memories attached to it. Everybody is elated.”

Stephen Opiela visits his mother, Ruth Opiela, at the Hometown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Tamaqua. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO