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North Dakota long term care resident gets first hug from family in a year

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:51 PM CST
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MCCLUSKY, N.D. (KFYR) - Long term care facilities across the state began weighing options on how to protect residents and staff around this time last year.

Heidi Steichen hugged her grandmother for the first time in a year.

Since the lockdown began, Melva Schindler or “Grandma Mel” wasn’t able to have visitors for a little while or get a hug from her granddaughter until now.

“I mean that’s really hard when you come and visit and you can’t, you can’t hold their hand, you can’t give them a hug, you can’t give them a kiss. It’s been hard the last year or so. It was really special,” said Steichen.

Melva stayed busy when family wasn’t around.

“This is a good place for fun, and we get serious every once in a week,” said Sheridan Memorial Home resident Melva Schindler.

This week’s fun activity is an important milestone.

“Happy Birthday to you and many more,” sung the staff and residents.

“You better mean it,” teased Schindler.

Cake was a nice surprise for residents celebrating Melva’s 99th Birthday.

Emma Boehm likes to eat her desert first.

“If you don’t like the food, you have the desert [first],” said Boehm.

Boehm was born in the Ukraine and walked across nine countries before coming to North Dakota in 1951. After escaping communism, she said there’s always a way of staying optimistic.

“Live for the future,” said Boehm.

When they aren’t celebrating birthdays, Betty Nathan enjoys the bird atrium or crocheting.

“[Crocheting] keeps me out of trouble,” joked Nathan.

Nathan’s room is lined with her prizes from bingo games. She told Your News Leader back in October she likes to give them away at Christmas time.

Recently, the CDC released new guidelines for gatherings of fully vaccinated people and Missy Axt, the director of nursing is confident we’re heading in the right direction.

“The last year has given us a lot of challenges but for us being in a rural area and being a small facility has given us some benefits,” said Axt.

Axt, her staff and residents are more than 80 percent fully vaccinated. They’re still a long way from taking the masks off but they have each other and they’re reminded about family each time people walk through the hallway and past the tree of life.

All visitors are still required to schedule a visit ahead and follow CDC guidelines.

Those rules still apply to us, our reporter was granted access inside the facility after he tested negative for coronavirus, passed a temperature check and thoroughly cleaned camera gear and microphones before entering the building.

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