As outdoor nursing home visits resume, some bedridden residents still unable to see family

BOSTON — While many family members have reunited with their loved ones as outdoor nursing home visits have resumed this week, others still cannot see their family, months after the coronavirus pandemic shut down visitation.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency order in mid-March prohibited Mass. nursing homes from allowing visitors. But on Wednesday, the state allowed visits to resume, outdoors only, with restrictions, including physical distancing, wearing masks and taking temperatures.

Meredith Cosseboom last visited her mother, Judy Fontana, at Plymouth Rehabilitation and Health Care Center on Mar. 12. Cosseboom, who has been speaking with her mother by FaceTime since then, had hoped to see her mom in person again when visitation reopened. Because Fontana is bedridden and cannot go outside, the two cannot see one another.

“I’m sad, and I just want to be able to see my mom,” Cosseboom told Boston 25 News Friday, in tears. “It breaks my heart that I can’t be with her, that I can’t sit and hold her hand. I can’t comfort her when she needs to be comforted. And she’s afraid.”

Indoor visits are only permitted for patients in end-of-life care. Fontana’s condition is not terminal.

Fontana, 72, who has vascular dementia and other health conditions, has not been out of her bed for more than a year and is afraid of being carried in a lift.

“She’s larger woman. So she isn’t able to be picked up and put in a wheelchair,” Cosseboom said. “She’s very sad and very lonely. She’s progressed quite a bit over the past three months, and she doesn’t understand why I can’t come there and be there. I remind her of the virus all the time, but she still doesn’t understand.”

Cosseboom has emailed and called Baker’s office to ask that the state permit indoor visits with proper protective gear and precautions for bedridden patients who cannot go outside.

“I’m very angry,” Cosseboom said. “[My mother] was forgotten. In all of the restrictions that were placed and the new rules, she was one of the forgotten ones.”

Cosseboom says her mother’s nursing home is forced to comply with the state guidelines but has been compassionate in caring for her mom.

Plymouth Rehabilitation and Health Care Center was one of the few local nursing homes to have no Covid-19 cases, Boston 25 News reported last month.

“They’ve kept my mom safe, they’ve kept her healthy, and they’re wonderful to her,” Cosseboom said. “But it doesn’t take the place of me. I’m her daughter. I’m the one who should be there with her.”

Meanwhile, Fontana’s dementia is progressing, and her delusions are becoming more frequent, Cosseboom said.

“She sees my grandmother in her room. My grandmother’s been passed away now for 24 years,” Cosseboom said. “[My grandmother] is in her room, and she’s asking her to go with her, which scares me and makes me wonder, ‘Is she going to die?’ I don’t know. It breaks my heart.”


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