DENTON, Texas - After months of waiting, Texas families with loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are to visit them in person.
That's because of Governor Greg Abbott's new guidelines allowing each resident two essential caregivers to come inside facilities with proper safety precautions.
It’s been around 200 days since the two mothers FOX 4 spoke to last saw their sons. They finally got the chance to see them in person after months of signing petitions, writing letters to the governor and pleading with their state representatives for this chance.
It’s been a long wait for mothers like Stephanie Kirby, whose special needs son, Petre, lives at Denton State Supported Living Center. It’s been closed to outside visitors since March due to the pandemic.
Stephanie was finally reunited with Petre on Friday after 197 days apart.
“It’s going to take time to build back his trust,” she said. “It’s going to take consistency and seeing me regularly for him to comprehend that I won’t vanish off the face of the Earth for another 197 days, and I need to build back his trust.”
Deborah Cates’ son, Michael, lives at the same facility. And after not seeing him since March, the two had an emotional reunion Saturday.
“Our eyes locked, and we just ran to each other and hugged. And it was the best hug ever,” she said. “It was just wonderful. There may have been a few tears shed.”
Deborah says she went through safety training and had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before being able to schedule an appointment to visit. She also had their temperature taken and filled out a symptoms questionnaire before she was allowed inside the facility. But all of it was well worth it.
“My mama heart was incredibly happy to hold my son and be able to just see him in person, to touch him, to hold him and to kiss him,” she said.
But not all families have had that happy reunion yet. Many are still waiting as facilities figure out the new rules and put in place safety protocols.
“I am one of the lucky ones,” Stephanie said. “There are so many others in nursing facilities and assisted living facilities in our group that have not had my day number 197. They’re still counting.”
The Texas Caregivers for Compromise Advocacy Group is also urging families to report facilities that are denying visits and not making any efforts to work towards allowing visits.
“Until every single family member has that day I had, we can’t forget them,” Stephanie said. “It can’t be headlines everywhere all the families are reunited because they’re not.”
Right now, only two essential caregivers for each resident are allowed inside facilities. But families hope as time goes on, other family members will be allowed in for socially distanced visits.