TAMPA, Fla. — It’s now been more than four months since Governor DeSantis forced the closure of long term care facilities to just about anyone other than caregivers. The purpose of this was to slow the spread inside these vulnerable facilities and keep the death toll to a minimum.
Now, all this time later, families are longing to see loved ones, worried that if the coronavirus doesn’t kill them, isolation might.
The Myers family is one of them. It’s been more than four months since Ellyne Myers and her two daughters have seen their husband and father in person.
“One of us was here almost every day to be with him,” said Ellyne Myers, whose husband currently lives in a long-term care facility.
These days it’s window visits and FaceTime calls, in hopes her husband Rick doesn’t forget her.
“It’s very frustrating, and it makes me really angry, but my first thing is their safety, and I would never do anything to jeopardize that. The window visits help, cause the windows open and we play music and we talk to him and we’ll get him to smile or laugh,” said Ellyne.
Rick was diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease when he was just 51 years old. Just a few years later, Ellyne made the difficult decision to place him in a long-term care facility.
“His biggest problem, why I had to place him here, is he wandered,” said Ellyne.
And never in her worst nightmares could she have expected to hit a point where she couldn’t freely walk into this building to see Rick.
“It just doesn’t make sense that nothing is being done to allow us to go in. It’s like they forgot about us,” said Ellyne.
Ellyne understands the importance of keeping our most vulnerable safe, in fact, Rick survived COVID-19 himself.
“I thought he was gonna die. I mean, one of the times I FaceTimed him and his head was back and his eyes were closed and his mouth was open, and it was just what my grandfather looked like when he died, and I’m like, ‘oh my god, he’ll die and I’ll never see him again,'” said Ellyne.
It’s been a struggle for Ellyne and Rick’s two daughters as well.
“March 13, right when this was starting, I think there was maybe one or two cases in Hillsborough County at that point, they’re like, 'you know, you probably shouldn’t go in, it’s probably not safe,' and I had a total meltdown thinking, I’m not going to be able to see my dad for a month or something,” said Alissa Myers, one of the daughters of Rick and Ellyne.
Then one month turned into four.
“How long can I not see my dad? I regret not being able to see him that day. If I had known that I probably wouldn’t be able to see him the rest of the year, my meltdown would’ve been much worse,” said Alissa.
Now they’re hopeful Florida will get their case count and positivity rate under control so they can see their dad.
“Maybe within the next couple of weeks we could do a visit outside where we’re 6 to 10 feet away and we could just stand and see each other... My worst fear is it’s going to hit 2021 and things aren’t going to be better,” said Stephanie Myers, one of the daughters of Rick and Ellyne.
Just like the Myers family hopes to make sure Rick remembers them, they also want to make sure Governor DeSantis remembers all the families of loved ones in long-term care facilities.
“Governor, please do everything in your power to stop the spread of COVID. This can’t go on. Require a mask, enforce distancing, get the testing under control, and then it’ll be safe to open schools and have us go visit our loved ones,” said Ellyne.
On August 20th, the Alzheimer’s Association Florida Region is teaming up with several state officials to discuss the future of long-term care in Florida.
Alissa Myers also has her own nonprofit, ALE for ALZ, Inc. They hope to educate people on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias through community events. You can find that nonprofit on Instagram @aleforalz, or by clicking here.
If someone you love is dealing with Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's Association is available to provide support at their 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900. You can also visit their website by clicking here.