New visitation guidelines allow local woman to visit mother at nursing home soon after months apart

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By Steven Albritton, WLWT5, June 30 2020

Ohio finally has its return date to allow visitors to nursing homes. On July 20, visitors of those with family will be allowed to schedule outdoor visits but will have to follow guidelines established by the state.

Bridgette Lajoye’s mother, Pat Bendel, has been in a nursing home since 2015 and is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. She compares not being able to see her mother to being in a hostage situation and fears her mother might die alone.

“I don’t know what’s happening to my mom. I don’t know if my mom’s getting abused. I don’t know if my mom’s eating right. I haven’t seen her since March,” Lajoye said.

Pat Bendel is 91 years old and has been a social person all her life. Right now, with no family to check on her day-to-day care, her family says it’s tough to make sure she gets the care she needs. Lajoye insists on FaceTiming every single doctor’s appointment because things have been missed by doctors and would have gone unchecked if not for her.

“Yet, today when I was on FaceTime for the exam, she had on the wrong compression socks and wrong to the point that they could have damaged her legs. If I wasn’t there on FaceTime, what would happen to my mother?” Lajoye said.

She also mentioned a time where her mother had shoes on the wrong feet, making her a fall risk. And another time where a cut on her arm had become infected and was not checked by the doctor until she mentioned it.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s hope for the order is to keep COVID-19 out of nursing homes. Most of the COVID-19 related deaths in Ohio have occurred in nursing homes and he says it’s his responsibility to protect the most vulnerable populations.

“I know this has been gut-wrenching for families not to be able to see in-person their loved one,” DeWine said.

That goes for Bendel’s four children, 25 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren who all haven’t been able to see her.

“The staff members are able to see her, and her own family cannot, and the staff goes to Lowe’s and Walmart like we do, yet they have access to her,” Lajoye said.

Even with a July 20 date set to reopen nursing homes for visitors, having to wear a mask and not being able to touch or come close to her own mother isn’t an option for Lajoye. She says her mother wouldn’t recognize her and knows other families feel the same.

“If she was mentally able to decide, mom you have a choice of being quarantined, locked down for months because of a virus, or you can risk it and see your family, I know what my mom would pick,” Lajoye said.

Guidelines for return visits to nursing homes can be found at http://coronavirus.ohio.gov/

Lajoye said that while she’s happy she has a date to return, she worries that the governor will go back on that order because of another spike in COVID-19 cases.

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