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'They're just thankful:' State Veterans Home in Fayetteville finds way to let family members visit
Fayetteville Observer - 1/8/2021
Jan. 7—The NC State Veterans Home in Fayetteville has found a way for family members to safely visit the facility's residents.
After going through a screening process, visitors are able to see and speak to the veterans through a clear sheet of plastic that is set up outside the veterans home.
Nursing homes and other longterm care facilities have been restricting or severely limiting visitors because of COVID-19. Residents in the facilities are at high risk for the disease, which is caused by a fast-spreading coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that long-term care facilities implement alternative visitation methods, such as video conferencing. The state Department of Health and Human Services issued an order with strict requirements for visitation.
PruittHealth, which operates the State Veterans Home, says that it follows the latest guidelines from public health officials and implements infection control procedures at its facilities.
Joyce Mozingo Ellis had to stop her daily visits to her husband, William Ben Ellis, 83, on March 13. She was not able to see him again until the State Veterans Home started the outdoor visitation plan in October.
Joyce Ellis, 83, said she had been talking to him on the phone three or four times a day, but she was still glad to see his face.
"Truthfully, it was like I had been there the day before," she said. "It was like I just saw him."
Ellis said her husband is a Navy veteran who served for four years before becoming a welder. She said she appreciates the care her husband has received.
"If they weren't so good to him, I would not be happy," she said.
Ellis lives on the other side of Laurinburg, about an hour and a half drive from Fayetteville. She said she and a friend who has a father in the State Veterans Home, were riding together to the weekly outdoor visitations before they were stopped because of cold weather.
The facility had planned to shift to similar indoor visitations on Dec. 28, according to a statement released by a spokeswoman. The indoor visitations are on hold because of public health guidelines, which include no COVID-19 positive cases of residents or employees in the last 14 days, and a county positivity rate of less than 10%.
Cumberland County's positivity rate was 15.4% on Monday.
More: NC has 'dangerous' start to 2021 with record COVID hospitalizations, 16% positivity rate
Ellis said the workers at the State Veterans Home answer her questions and explain the situation at the facility to her when needed. She said she has talked with PruittHealth officials, including Neil L. Pruitt Jr., the chairman and CEO of the company.
Whitney Bell, the administrator at the State Veterans Home, said family members have appreciated the visits with the veterans.
"They're just thankful for the opportunity to see them in person," she said.
Bell said she loves seeing the smiles on the faces of the veterans and family members.
"It's priceless," she said. "Some of them have been emotional in a good way."
The family members appreciate the guidelines for the visits, Bell said. She said family members have to schedule the visitors in advance. One or two family members can visit a veteran, she said.
About four to six visits took place each day, Bell said, and about 160 have taken place since October. Workers clean the plastic and other parts of the area between visits.
Bell said that when the visitors arrive, workers in personal protective equipment first validate their identification, then ask screening questions and take their temperature. After leaving their vehicle, the family member must go to a sanitizing station for at least 20 seconds before the visit begins, she said.
Family members are escorted to the visitation area, where they and the veterans are given 20 minutes of privacy, Bell said.
"It has truly been amazing for them," she said.
Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3572.
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