SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) - After six months of separation, nursing homes are finally allowing in-person visits, cause for celebration for families who haven't seen their loved ones since the pandemic began.
The Sefzovic family's reunion Tuesday was six months in the making outside the St. Annes Mead Assisted Living Facility in Southfield.
"It was hard not to be able to see them face-to-face and I'm so happy I can," said Barb Sefzovic, who lives in the facility.
"It's never normal but it's better than it was and that's what we are thankful for," said her son, John Sefzovic.
"You just don't connect as much, I think, just over the phone," said his wife, Lois Sefzovic. "It's going to improve her mind and her whole sense of being."
The reunions are also emotional for staff, who say they've seen firsthand how much residents have missed their families.
"There's a buzz throughout the building. The residents are excited, family members are excited. It's just overwhelming," said Jennifer Stone, a life enrichment coordinator.
Several precautions are in place, including appointment-only visits, visitor health screening, social distancing and mask-wearing.
"We carry out these restrictions. We're not trying to be the bad guys, we are just trying to keep people safe and it hurts us to have to keep them apart and have to put these restrictions in place but we are doing it to support them," said the facility's executive director, Jane Collins.
Now, while thinking back to the uncertainty when the coronavirus peaked, staff say face-to-face visits have been a long time coming.
"When you're seeing the family members react to how scared they are and what was going on at the time, to now be able to have it come full circle and they get to be together, it's so exciting," said Stone.
And the Sefzovic family is leaving their first visit incredibly grateful to have something you can't replace: the ability to say I love you face-to-face.