Getting some Face time

Families get creative in visiting loved ones in nursing facilities

Trish Bahrenfuss smiles at her mother, Mary O’Connor, in her room at Crestview Nursing and Rehabilitation earlier this week. With the restrictions on visitation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The family has been using FaceTime to communicate with O’Connor.

    Trish Bahrenfuss has grown accustomed to seeing her mom, Mary O’Connor, on a daily basis. But they’ve had to get creative with their interactions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As much as she would like to see her mom, to hold her hand or touch her face, Bahrenfuss understands that simply isn’t possible in this current climate.

    “You just think of all of the elderly people that are out there and you don’t want them coming down with anything or jeopardizing their health,” Bahrenfuss, a Webster City resident and longtime math teacher at WCHS, said. “This is just the way it has to be right now.”

    O’Connor, 88, has been a resident at Crestview Nursing and Rehabilitation since July. Current regulations due to COVID-19 strictly prohibit visitors to nursing facilities in an attempt to shield residents from the outbreak.

Luckily for the family, Erin Bahrenfuss, the daughter of Trish and Kevin Bahrenfuss, works at Crestview and is able to check in on her grandma during her shifts.

- Submitted photos Mary O’Connor and granddaughter Erin Bahrenfuss FaceTime with Trish Bahrenfuss.

    “My mom can’t really talk very much, so that’s why I’m glad Erin is there to assist,” Trish, who was last able to visit her mom on March 13, said. “Erin can go in and see her when she works, so that really helps.”

Erin has also become the family’s official technology expert. For the time being, FaceTime calls between mom and daughter will have to suffice, and Trish is thankful for that communication. Trish has also made an appearance outside of her mom’s window for some face-to-face interaction.

“It was just funny to see her reaction when she caught eyes with us, but it was neat,” Trish said about that initial interaction outside of the window. “Erin ended up coming into the room because she couldn’t hear us through the window and we talked to her on the phone.”

Lifelong residents of Sioux City, Tom and Mary O’Connor moved to Webster City in 2015 so Trish could assist them in their daily lives. Tom passed away in 2016.

Mary lived at Windsor Manor until she suffered a stroke last July and was transferred to Crestview. The stroke left Mary will short-term memory loss, which Trish says isn’t necessarily a bad thing with the current visitation restrictions.

Mary O'Connor

    “Because she doesn’t really have a short-term memory, luckily she doesn’t know I’m not there every day and she’s not upset by it,” Trish said. “We’ve had to remind her of the virus when we talk to her and it’s like she’s shocked every time.”

    Mary was recently put on hospice due to her lack of appetite, but Trish said even the hospice nurse is only allowed into the facility every 14 days.

    “That’s kind of a bummer that they’re not able to provide that extra care,” she said.

    Still, Trish is confident she will be able to see her mom again. She’ll be able to walk into her room and have more one-on-one conversations. She would prefer it to be sooner rather than later, but she understands the health of her mom and of all the residents takes priority.

“If she was still in Windsor Manor right now, she’d be having a fit because I wasn’t coming every day,” Trish said. “I think I’ll be able to see her again … if she would get to the point where she’s starting to pass, they do let you in there to be with them. I don’t think that’s coming though.”

And if she does have concerns, Trish says she can alway call Crestview and speak with the nursing staff. Just getting any kind of update on her mom’s condition is welcome as well.

    “I can call the nursing home and just check up and see how she’s doing, but I haven’t had to do that yet because Erin is there,” Trish said. “You always know she’s having a good day when you’re told she’s being sassy. That means she’s on her game, so to speak, if she’s teasing people and giving them heck.”


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