Orange County

Families being reunited with loved ones in long-term care facilities despite pandemic

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — Through glass windows and doors, there’s no way to hug and no way to hold hands. But families had to make it work for months.

That is how loved ones were visiting their friends and families at long term care facilities.

But Friday, Grand Villa at Altamonte Springs had several reunions between family members.

"You are able to hug, one staff member said. “Get up and give your boy a hug!”

Ron spent time with his mom one-on-one at the assisted living facility, and he can finally take care of her again.

In some circumstances, the tables are turned and it’s a mother waiting to see her son.

"Right now, it’s been 160 days, Michelle O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly’s son, Justin, is 17 years old.

“He is a very lively person,” O’Reilly said. “If you put on some music, he’s dancing….he has a very infectious personality.”

Justin has autism and was placed in a group home in April.

“We needed some help desperately, O’Reilly said.

To get adjusted to the new environment, he had to stay in the house and was not allowed any visitors for 30 days but because statewide restrictions were put in place the days piled up.

“30 became 60, which became 90, which became 100, which just kept going on and on,” O’Reilly said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lifted his long-term care facility restrictions on visits in September, and Justin’s group home spent the last two weeks preparing."

“I was waiting for the governor to release to ease the restrictions on long term facilities,” O’Reilly said. “So, I didn’t know what I was counting to. I just kept hoping that the count would stop at some point.”

On Friday, O’Reilly finally got to visit Justin. The mom and son danced and played on the swings. The entire visit Justin had the biggest smile, and his mom had a special spark in her eyes.