Like clockwork, for the last four years, Mary Rice has spent her lunchtime visiting her husband of 68 years, Kenneth, at the Floyd E Tut Fann Home in Huntsville.
"I go every day and feed him," said Rice, who shared one of her favorite moments during her visits. "Listening to gospel music and things like that."
But now that public access has been restricted to the four VA homes in Alabama by the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, along with restrictions on all long-term homes, to protect against the coronavirus, Rice's visits have been cut off. Only medical personnel are allowed.
Administrators like HMR Regional Vice President Scott Hurst said they know the power of personal connection, and that's why they're are allowing communication through Skype, Facetime and by phone between patients and visitors.
Still, Hurst recognizes it's not the same as being there in person.
"It's a very stressful time when you have someone you care so much about and you're unable to go see about them," said Hurst.
But for Rice, it's worse because her husband has Alzheimer's disease and he can't talk, so she only gets a phone call from medical staff explaining his condition.
"My days are long. I can't see him but they (hospital staff) are so nice," said Rice "They give me an update on him, but it's still not like seeing him."
We did find out from Hurst that compassion visits are available. They are unique and rare, mostly for very ill patients or those receiving hospice care. However, a visitor has to undergo screenings for protection against coronavirus.
Durst said he will be in touch with Rice to help accommodate her.
"Together, we're gonna get through this and make sure that everybody is safe on the backside of it," said Durst.
For more information about the VA's restrictions on visitors, visit the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.va.alabama.gov.
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