Although Ohio is allowing indoor visitation at nursing homes for the first time in months, some are still having trouble seeing their loved ones.
Melissa Ackison, 42, said she was forced to wear a mask to visit her grandmother, despite her having a medical exemption.
“I’ve been counting down the days to see her,” Ackison said.
She had gone to the nursing home on Sunday to book a slot for 10 a.m. the next day to see her 82-year-old grandmother, Linnie May.
“We had hardly slept, we were so excited,” Ackison said.
Upon arriving at The Arbors in Delaware, Ohio, Ackison and her two sons — ages 3 and 11 — were told they could only see their relative if they were outside, masked and separated by a plastic shower curtain.
Ackison informed staff that her medical condition prevented her from wearing a mask. She has fibrous dysplasia, which has caused brain fluid leaks, mold to grow in her sinuses and required 23 reconstructive surgeries. Ackison said wearing scarves or masks over her face can cause issues.
That is when the nursing home director, John Rondot, stepped in.
According to Ackison, Rondot told her that masks were required, regardless of medical exemptions or the ages of her accompanying children, and if they did not comply they “could not see grandma.” Ackison said she has “never been treated so rudely in my life.”
Ackison, executive director of the conservative group Patriots for Ohio, said she agreed to comply with the masks and other safety precautions, but then was told she would have to show the nursing home her driver’s license so they could take down information for contact tracing. She said this had not been done in previous visits.
When Ackison told the director she did not have her license with her, she said he began screaming at her.
“The nursing home director was so angry, and he kept screaming ‘what do you mean you don’t have your driver’s license? Do you make it a practice to break the law everywhere you go?’” Ackison said in a text message to The Ohio Star.
Ackison also said that they would not be allowed to see her grandmother, despite eventually being willing to take precautions, if they did not participate in the contact tracing program.
“You have no idea how desperate we were, the point of putting on masks despite them being a health risk, only to be turned away from standing outside with social distancing, the masks that the facility forces you to wear, and a freaking shower curtain in between you and your loved one, as though that is somehow magically going to trick a virus,” Ackison said in a text message to The Star.
Ackison said a “large scene erupted,” which included her children and grandmother crying.
Ackison declined to be submitted into the contact tracing program and was subsequently turned away from the visit.
The Arbors could not be reached for comment.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced in late September that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities would be allowed to host indoor visits. Indoor visits have been off-limits since the beginning of the pandemic in March, according to Fox19.
Individual facilities may decide if they want to open up to the public.
Ohio has had more than 13,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among residents of long-term care facilities, according to data from its health department.
“Just a mask,” Ackison said. “Then it was just a couple weeks, then a couple months. Now it’s full on submission.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Ohio Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair.