The Coatesville VA Medical Center has resumed face-to-face visits in late March for Veterans residing in the Community Living Center (nursing home) on campus.
The decision to resume face-to-face visits was based on meeting established conditions. One was that 70 percent of the residents must be fully vaccinated. Another was that the county COVID-19 positivity rate must be below 10 percent.
“Seeing families reunited is the product of a lot of work and a lot of hope,” said Shirleen Bennett, director of the Geriatrics and Extended Care Unit. “They have been waiting a long time for this. Being able to provide face-to-face visitation is a testament to the strict adherence to the personal protective equipment standards of the staff and Veterans in our CLC.”
The CLC staff has been helping Veterans stay in contact with loved ones throughout the pandemic with purchased and donated tablets and other mobile devices. Window visits have also provided a safe way for loved ones to see each other while using telephones to speak through the glass.
Window visits every week during winter
“I visited just about every week throughout the winter with the window visits, except for a week or two in February where the weather was just so cold and miserable,” said Margret Anker, wife of John Anker, a Vietnam-era Navy Veteran and CLC resident.
John and Margret speak by telephone every night, when possible. And Margret gave John a tablet so they could video chat whenever they wanted.
“There is no comparison. The window visit wasn’t a visit to me,” said John. “This is a big improvement.”
Like a “first date” for Veteran
Kathleen Beech is a CLC nurse. She helped John prepare for his first face-to-face visit with his wife in a year (pictured above). She brought pictures of his dogs.
“John got so nervous, like it was a first date,” Beech said. “He had whiskers that morning, so I shaved him. Then he decided to get all dressed up. He sounded so nervous. He hadn’t touched her in a year. It almost broke my heart.”
After visiting together for nearly an hour, John and Margret said they look forward to having a face-to-face visit every week. They also hope for the opportunity to sit outside together once the weather improves.
Mike Hamill is the public affairs officer for Community and Congressional Affairs at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.