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

OCOEE, Fla. — As much of the country returns to some normalcy, family members of residents at an Ocoee long-term care facility say they still aren’t able to hug their vaccinated loved ones.

Other long-term care facilities have been open to family members for a while now, but loved ones of people who live inside Ocoee Health Care don’t have answers as to why they cannot.

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Especially since the residents inside have been vaccinated for months.

Each week at the facility, loved ones are allowed one to two 20-minute visits outside the facility with masks, plexiglass, and 6 feet of separation.

“You’re 6 feet apart. There’s a barrier in between you. You can’t hold hands, you can’t give anybody a hug,” said Gengie Nail, whose mother, Bonnie, lives at Ocoee Health Care.

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It’s been 15 months since the pandemic shutdown visitations, and Gengie said she feels like she’s losing her mom, with the gulf between them growing wider every day.

“I’m used to hugging her every single day, and it’s been so long,” Gengie said.

She said Bonnie, who has dementia, is struggling without interaction with familiar faces.

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“Our last visit was this past Saturday, and she really didn’t have any words,” Gengie said. “So she’s become less communicable.”

Gengie said her mother, who walked all around the facility before the pandemic, could barely get in and out of the chair.

“I have lots of friends that can’t believe we’re not being able to visit because they have, and they have been for weeks,” Gengie said.

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Gengie, who is also fully vaccinated, said the most interaction she’s been able to have with her mother was when she had to go to the ER after a fall.

“I’m able to sit in the room with her there. I’m able to hold her hand,” she said.

Gengie said when she calls Ocoee Health Care, employees tell her they don’t know when things will change. And she feels not at least having a plan is unacceptable.

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“I still go to the window. I try to go every day. And most of time she’s just sitting in there. They don’t have them out and about as much as they used to,” she said.

Ocoee Health Care is under new management, and Channel 9 has reached out for a response and timeline for resuming visitation but have 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.