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'Hopefully soon I'll be able to hug my mom again' | Task force formed to look into relaxing nursing home visitation rules

Only a handful of facilities could meet particular guidelines that allowed visitations to resume in June.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Seeing your mom, dad, grandpa or grandma in a nursing home got easier in June. 

Technically that's when visitations resumed, but only a handful of facilities could meet the particular guidelines.

Now, the state is looking at relaxing those rules even more. 

"I would very much like to hug my mother just one more time," said Charles Denney. "I last saw my mother and hugged my mother in February."

The state was quick to close down all visitors to nursing homes in March. The decision was easy, as COVID-19 rapidly spread through so many.

For Denney, he's seen his mom through a window only once since February, but he said it's not enough since she's struggling with dementia. 

"It's really difficult for us because we wonder if our mother feels like we have hurt her, abandoning her. You feel like your time with your parents is limited anyway and COVID is kind of taking that away."

In Tennessee, 463 people in nursing homes have died early a quarter of the more than 1,700 statewide deaths which is why strict rules are in place.

Health commissioner Lisa Oiercey is forming a task force that will work to find new rules for visitation while keeping patients safe in part to help the patients mentally after being isolated for so long. 

Denney feels certain situations should allow for more relaxed rules. "If i'm COVID free and my mom has recovered and there's no COVID outbreak in the facility then why not allow it. Maybe an outdoor on the porch meeting."

Denney along with so many other families are optimistic that day will come, they just hope it won't be too late.

"Physical contact would be wonderful, to be able to hug her and let her know we love her. Hopefully soon I'll be able to hug my mom again and tell her I love her."

The state is limited in what it can do since federal rules dictate much of what happens at nursing homes.