PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - The pandemic changed how we connect with family and friends, especially those over 65-years-old, as they can be some of the most susceptible to COVID-19.
Over the past several months, a number of staff members and residents at Washington Veterans Home in Port Orchard tested positive for the virus.
In-person visitation for more than 200 patients was halted after the recent infections. By the first day of December, families were again invited to resume visitation with new protocols. That meant veterans’ loved-ones would visit via microphone and speaker from outside the building underneath a weather-resistant tent.
“It was back in March,” said Tanya Stark, whose father lives at the Port Orchard home. “We used to visit him.”
When in-person visitations were canceled, Stark’s family used internet cameras to connect with 88-year-old veteran Gerhard Frick.
On Tuesday, Stark’s two children and her mother visited Frick and saw him with their own eyes for the first time in months.
The facility connected microphones and speakers along a bank of windows. Visitors were allowed to meet with family members while seated outdoors. The distanced, in-person meeting is preferred to Stark.
“For me, it reassures me that he’s doing well,” Tanya said.
Frick is a veteran of military engagements in both Vietnam and Korea. He said it forced the separation of him and his wife for more than two years, but these past few months had also been difficult without physical contact with his loved ones.
“A soldier also has feelings,” he said.
Visitation at the facility is limited to two groups at a time, three days per week.