Nursing home advocates argues family should be given 'essential care worker' status

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Bob and Sue Willson's love story goes back a long time to grade school in Columbus, Ohio.

"We were both band geeks in the orchestra and all that so we hung out with the same crowd and I always tell her in the 7th grade, I looked across the band room and there was a beautiful clarinet player and I was smitten," said Bob.

Work took them separate directions but eventually, Bob tracked down the girl he was smitten with in the 7th grade. Now, he can only see that woman through a porch visit.

"The sadness is taking over," Bob said. "She's not in dementia, she has a lot of effects from the stroke."

A stroke landed Sue in the skilled nursing wing of a long-term care facility. They both now live in Burlington.

Before the pandemic, Bob was her main caregiver. Now, he and other advocates are pushing for the state to further ease restrictions.

This week the state said outdoor visits at these skilled facilities can happen but folks like Bob and Tim Wall, whose mother is in a facility in Kernersville, want more.

Both were part of a rally in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday morning before Senator Joyce Krawiec introduced legislation to support funding for PPE and rapid tests for families.

They want to be given "essential care worker" status-- to have at least one person inside to care for a wife or mother. They say if patients at hospitals are allowed to have one visitor, so should they.

"Families don't need to visit: they are caregivers," said Wall. "This is horrible. Even with an outdoor visit, my mom says 'Hug Me' and what do I tell her? What do I tell my 88-year-old mother when she asks her adult son for a hug?"
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