Woman battling obstacles to see father again


CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A daughter and nurse is desperate to visit her father in-person. He’s in a nursing home right now, where they are not letting visitors inside. All nursing homes in the state are under the same restrictions. Her father also has dementia. In the meantime, she feels he just keeps getting worse.

As a nurse, Julie Smith knows these people need to be kept safe, but she also knows the toll it can take on them when they’re isolated. That’s why she’s willing to do whatever it takes to see her father beyond his window.

“I know if COVID-19 gets into these facilities, that it can kill these people,” said Smith. “I’m aware of that. But at the same time, people can’t go months and months on end without seeing their loved ones and have a good frame of mind.” For Smith’s family and many others like hers, they are nearing a breaking point.

Her 74-year-old father has been under the care of a nursing home for about a year-and-a-half. Phil Niebrugge has a condition called an Ataxia. He cannot walk or get in and out of a wheelchair on his own. He also suffers from dementia. “He’s more or less just forgetful, doesn’t know necessarily what time of day is it; thinks he’s going home, thinks he lives at home.”

Smith said her family is very close but because of COVID-19, they cannot visit him in-person. They can come up to his window, but it is not the same. “Dad is very hard of hearing as well, so to try to communicate through a window. He has neck pain, so it’s hard for him to turn his head.”

She is willing do to whatever it takes to be able to hold her father again. “I’m hoping they can allow people to come in and maybe minimize just one or two designated family members to come in and those people be screened. I’m willing to have a COVID-19 test done regularly.” But she knows her chances to do that are dwindling. “I don’t know how much time we have left on this earth, but it could be six months or less, and who knows how much longer this will go on, so it may not be until they decide that he’s dying that we’re allowed in at his bedside.”

Smith said she has tried to get a hold of representatives, the governor’s office and the public health department. She has not heard back.

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