JACKSONVILLE, Fla — After six months of being apart, Grace Page excitedly embraced her mother.
The last time she got to hug her mom was March 11. It was also the last time she sang to her mom face-to-face and held her hand before Florida locked down its nursing care facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Six months later, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order to allow some visitation.
It all makes sense to Page, whose mother told her, "Don't they know we need hugs to live?"
When Page got to her mom's room, her mother said, "I'm happy." They both were filled with gig smiles and relief. But with dementia, Page's mom didn't need to say a lot.
But relief isn't the case for many other families in Florida.
Several people across the state joined the Facebook group, "Caregivers for Compromise because isolation kills too." There, they are reporting how they are still being turned away at the nursing facilities.
Mary Daniel is the Jacksonville wife who took a job as a dishwasher at her husband's memory care facility just to see him. Her story, after airing on First Coast News, went viral and got the attention of DeSantis.
Daniel was appointed to the governor's Task Force to create a plan allowing some visitation with new safety rules.
More than 160 families in Florida, though, are telling Daniel on Facebook they've been denied visitation.
So Daniel went back to state leaders, especially those high up in the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA.
Mary Mayhew, head of AHCA, and DeSantis issued a "Long-Term Care Facility Visitation Expectations" document on Sept. 9. The goal is to clarify the original order.
Three key points in the document, according to Daniel:
1) Nursing homes cannot bar you from visitation because you were not deemed an "Essential Caregiver" prior to the pandemic. Also, you do not have to give baths or feed your loved ones or do any basic care needs. The new definition includes a caregiver offering "emotional support."
2) The facility can require you to take a COVID-19 test, but only if they pay for it.
3) The facility cannot ban Essential Caregivers and Compassionate Care visitors from touching and hugging their loved ones, provided proper PPE is worn. Social distancing can be enforced for general visitors and staff.
Is all this mandatory? Daniel says if nursing care facilities do not comply, the task force plans to meet again and make it mandatory.
If you'd like to read the clarification order from AHCA, click here.