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Experts urge families to leave loved ones in nursing facilities this Thanksgiving

Posted at 6:54 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 19:54:54-05

KILLEEN, TX — The federal government recommends those in senior care facilities fight the urge to be with families and stay home this Thanksgiving. But for some, that’s easier said than done.

Janey Eastwood is used to eating turkey and stuffing with her loved ones. But for her mother’s 87th Thanksgiving, she’ll be celebrating through a window.

“I really hate this situation, but there’s nothing much you can do about it,” Eastwood explained after one of her countless visits to see her mom at a senior care facility. “You know you kind of have to deal with it the best you can.”

Usually, Eastwood and other families are invited into facilities to eat Thanksgiving meals with their older family members. This year, most homes are canceling those.

“For us, we want to make sure that it’s as joyful as the last Thanksgiving, minus the families,” John Darby, the administrator of Mercy House in Temple, said.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recommended families leave their loved ones in the nursing home this holiday.

But, if you feel comfortable bringing your loved ones home, officials urge you to follow COVID-19 protocols stricter than before.

“COVID is going to be very real on Thursday,” Darby said. “But, it’s Thanksgiving and so we’re focusing on those things that we can be thankful for even during this season.”

For those planning to leave their loved ones, they’re in good hands with workers like Veleka Berry, who says they might be fill-ins for the real deal, but the love is just as strong.

“It gives me a sense of fulfillment,” Berry said. “It gives me a sense of joy to know that somebody knows that they’re loved and that they’re not alone.”

So, whether you’re visiting in-person, over a phone or through a sheet of glass, it’s important to remember to be thankful.

“They still know that you love them and care about them and so it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a matter of showing this person how much you care and how much you love them,” Eastwood said with a smile.

Facility owners say being extra cautious if you bring your loved ones home is very important and if you can't, remember that their family away from family will take good care of them.