Emotional reunions as Wisconsin long-term care facilities welcome back visitors

Posted at 6:29 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 19:29:58-04

MILWAUKEE — Long-term care facilities can now welcome visitors, thanks to updated health guidelines in Wisconsin. This marks a turning point for many local families. After a year apart, they can be reunited in-person with their loved ones.

One family shared cell-phone video of two boys hugging their grandma for the first time in a year at Wilson Commons in Milwaukee. Others posted photos of emotional embraces between parents and children.

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“Just the fact that grandkids could visit, their kids could visit, particularly those residents in memory care - depending on where they are in that journey, there can be a lot of confusion - and now being able to hug and touch is amazing,” said Jim Tarantino, the Founder & CEO of Capri Communities. “I can’t tell you how excited I am that we made it to this day.”

TMJ4 was there as Geri Krupp-Gordon surprised her dad with an in-person visit at Grace Commons in Menomonee Falls. Dick Krupp was new to memory care when the COVID-19 visitor restrictions were first issued last year.

“What being socially isolated has done to the elderly, is devastating to watch,” said. Krupp-Gordon

We first talked to Geri hours before her reunion with her dad. She’s a nurse, and the Chief Operating Officer of Capri Communities. She has led the company’s effort to make sure the return of visitors is done safely. It’s a job that’s very personal for her.

“I never dreamed I wouldn’t be able to hug my dad for an entire year,” said Krupp-Gordon. “Personal interaction is what many people in long-term care survive on.”

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Putting some of the pain of the last year in perspective, 45 percent of all long-term care patients in Wisconsin who contracted coronavirus, died from it. That’s nearly 3,000 people. And their families never got to say good-bye in person.

Finally able to visit again, many family members and friends taking the opportunity to hug nurses and staff.

“They're the true healthcare heroes in all of this,” said Krupp-Gordon. “They came to work every day through this to take care of our residents, emotionally and physically. They stood-up and filled-in as families were forced to stay out. I’m beyond grateful for that.”

Over at St. Camillus in Wauwatosa, Judy Hayes, 80, got to catch-up in-person with her old friends.

“It’s so great to see them,” said Hayes. “It's been difficult. Thank God for the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell was a wonderful man. How isolating it can be to not get out of your room. It’s hard. This is a big improvement.”

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“It’s so good to see her,” said visitor Bud Jacoby. “It’s always great to see Judy. She’s an old friend. We’ve known her for a long time. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Every long-term care community has different rules in place. There are limits on the number of visitors at one time. Visitors must communicate ahead of time that they will be coming. Everyone still has to wear a mask during visits, and is encouraged to be mindful of physical distance. Most places also require you to answer health questions and have your temperature checked before entering.

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