Missing our seniors

Families rally to see loved ones at nursing facility

OBSERVER Photos by Jo Ward Families gathered in unison at the Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dunkirk to protest the lack of physical visitation in any form Friday.

A rally was held Friday morning outside Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to address the fact that people have been unable to visit family members during the pandemic.

Due to COVID-19, there have been visitation restrictions throughout the state in an effort to limit the potential transfer of the virus to the most vulnerable. However, after nearly 180 days with no in-person visits, families are hoping to see a change in policy.

“There’s a lot of concerned people, this is just our first rally,” rally organizer Jody Falkner said. “I’m glad that we have the support of the assemblyman and the senator. It’s a start and we’re building momentum and we need to just keep going and not give up.”

“My Aunt Julie is in here,” Susan Schrantz said. “We had to come out — all her children are here, they’ve been here twice a day almost, not to see her at all is heartbreaking.”

Said Linda Dobek, whose relative resides at the facility, “This FaceTime, we’re allowed one person, so there’s three of us to share once a month. Now the last three weeks, after much arguing, we finally each get five minutes.”

Local elected officials also shared their opinions.

“I think it’s absolutely outrageous that our governor thinks that this is going to help anyone in keeping away from their families some who are at the very end of their life,” said state Sen. George Borrello. “My uncle is in this facility. My father can’t come here to see his brother. This is the real human impact of this. Ultimately the governor has to stop listening to his close political advisors and start listening to the true health care professionals that will tell him that getting people into the facilities to see their families is the right medical procedure and he needs to change it immediately.”

Assemblyman Andy Goodell echoed Borrello’s sentiments.

“We made it clear that we believe that it was inhumane to allow our loved ones to be isolated from the very people that are most important to their lives,” Goodell said. “There’s much more to health care than simply making sure that someone is properly fed, what’s important for them to know are that their loved ones are here for them and have not forgotten them and are there to give them that mental support, that friendship and that love which is so important to everyone including everyone here.”

A group of several dozen marched around the full perimeter of the building. With bull horns in hand, they called for compassion and to be allowed to have some sort of connection with their families, some nearing the end of their lives.

In a statement, Jason Newman a representative from Vestracare, the parent company of Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said: “Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation is committed to the health and wellbeing of our residents and are truly sensitive to the fact that COVID visitation guidelines, as set forth by the NYS Department of Health, has prevented many residents families from seeing their loved ones.

“For the continued health of all residents, families are reminded that visitation of any sort is unfortunately not permitted at this time. We respectfully request that families adhere to these guidelines and remind our families that attempting to visit overnight or on weekends is prohibited. Families are encouraged to follow us on social media for opening updates and are reminded that virtual visits are available upon request.”

Later Friday, the facility announced three options for visitation. These would take effect on Monday.

Those options include: in-person visitation on the front porch of the facility, a closed window visit or a virtual visit done either via SKYPE or Facetime.


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