May 15, 2021

‘The most heartwarming thing’

Long-term care facility residents have meaningful reunions with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel

Collins’ mother lives with advanced dementia. As a result, her speech is impacted and often is limited, but when Collins walked into the room, her mother immediately hugged her, and she audibly loved the sweet, tender embrace of a daughter who missed her mom very much.

Collins, who lives in the Kansas City area, perhaps began to see the light at the end of that tunnel when she got to see her mother for only the second time in the last year. Her mother is Marcene Millihollin, a resident at Good Samaritan Society Fontanelle.

Collins’ mother lives with advanced dimentia. As a result, her speech is impacted and often is limited, but when Collins walked into the room, her mother immediately hugged her, and she audibly loved the sweet, tender embrace of a daughter who missed her mom very much.

“Normally when I’m talking with her I’m looking at her and she’s kind of looking off to the side, and she looked right in my eyes. I said, ‘Mom, it’s Joni.’ She looked into my eyes and nodded her head. She realized that it was me. She smiled and looked into my eyes, and that was worth every mile that I drove,” Collins said.

The introduction of vaccines and other measures taken as the pandemic has progressed has allowed Good Samaritan to allow visitors back into its long-term care facilities for approximately the last month.

Officials say that one of the biggest factors to allowing visitors back is the vaccination rate within a facility, and in Fontanelle it is at or over 90% of residents vaccinated.

Currently, GSC Fontanelle activities director Sheona Fienhage said that appointments have to be made 24 hours in advance to visit and visitors are subject to a simple symptoms screening.

Only two visiting parties are allowed in the building at a time. Meetings with loved ones can happen either in that resident’s room or in the building’s conference room. Fully vaccinated residents may hug loved ones or friends who visit.

“Witnessing these reunions between our residents and their loved ones is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” Fienhage said. “For residents to not see their families for a year, we have staff who ask families when they come if they can come watch [our residents] see their family because they want to see the look on their faces. If that’s not the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Collins would agree. Looking back, she’s very thankful for the way the staff at Good Samaritan Society Fontanelle took care of her mother all through the pandemic.

Collins and her sisters visited in March when they thought it was an end of life situation, however their mother made it through, and they’re glad they’ve gotten to see her again.

Collins will retire this May as an early childhood special education teacher and is excited to come back to Fontanelle more often, the town she grew up in, to hopefully visit her mother many more times.

“They closed down in the beginning of March and did not have any cases that I’m aware of until the fall. When my mom got it, I could call anytime and they would give me a report. They quarantined her in a room by herself and took really good care of her,” Collins said. “Anytime I want to call they’ll send me pictures, answer any questions I have. I felt they handled it very, very well. I’m excited to go back and visit next Saturday. I’m going to take my daughter to see her.”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.