Families with loved ones in long-term care facilities debate Thanksgiving togetherness

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:

Families in Florida with loved ones in long-term care facilities have a big decision to make: Do they take them out of the facility for Thanksgiving?

On one hand, there are concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

On the other, many people have been cooped up in their facilities for months.

It’s making the tradition of having a family Thanksgiving dinner a tough call.

“Little Johnny, 3 years old, he’s going to see Grandma, he’s gonna run up and hug the heck out of Grandma, we know that’s gonna happen,” said Scott Morris, whose mother is in the skilled nursing wing at Gulf Coast Village.

Morris said he would love nothing more than to hug his mom, but he fears for her health. She’s 94, has Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“I could take her out, but I’m not going to do that because I think it’s a responsibility of us as citizens for other’s loved ones also, not to expose other people in a nursing home facility.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees, saying Thursday that people shouldn’t travel for Thanksgiving, but should stay home and celebrate with the people who live in the same house.

Gov. Ron DeSantis believes families should be together for the holidays.

The folks at Gulf Coast Village would rather their residents stay put.

“This is still a very viable virus and until we have a vaccine and it’s widely distributed, we need to take those extra precautions,” said Greg Anderson, associate executive director.

Morris understands families are wrestling with the decision, but he’s made up his mind.

“By taking someone out for your own selfish interest and because you want to be with Grandma and Grandpa, you’re actually increasing the risk to someone else you don’t even know.”

It’s a risk he isn’t willing to take.

In September, DeSantis lifted most visitation restrictions for people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He said any increased risk of infection is outweighed by the positive mental health benefits.

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