Ocoee nursing home residents able to hug loved ones for first time in 15 months

OCOEE, Fla. — After 15 months apart, people with family living at an Ocoee long-term care facility are finally able to hug and embrace their loved ones again.

Earlier this week, 9 Investigates discovered Ocoee Health Care was still only allowing 20-minute outdoor visits between Plexiglas, even though the governor lifted restrictions on long-term care facilities nine months ago.

READ: ‘It’s been so long’: Visitors still unable to see loved ones without barriers at Ocoee long-term care facility

That meant no holding hands and no hugs.

The day after our story aired, the facility opened its doors.

Ocoee Health Care notified families they could start visiting their loved ones indoors between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week.

READ: Families demand better communication from Ocoee nursing home dealing with COVID-19 outbreak with protests, letters

Gengie Nail, who hadn’t been able to visit her mother indoors for 15 months, went to see her mom as soon as she could.

“It was amazing. I was able to look at all of her things, sit next to her, hold her hand in the bed. And she was just so happy,” Gengie said.

At their last visit Gengie said her mom, who has dementia, barely spoke.

READ: Family finds cards sent to woman in local nursing home during pandemic unopened after her death, say staff lied about reading them to her

But she says there was a noticeable difference this time.

“And you know, it was so great to walk into her room and see all of the things that I’ve sent her over the last year,” Gengie said. “I tried to send her something about once a week, once every two weeks. So her room is just cluttered with it. And I love it.”

Gengie said she believes speaking out pushed the facility to open up.

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“I’m just glad that we’ve been able to do this and maybe be a voice for all of the families out there that aren’t quite so vocal,” she said.

Channel 9 has been trying to reach someone at Ocoee Health Care since Monday, but we have still not heard back.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.