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Tampa Bay family struggling to visit grandmother in long-term care facility weeks after restrictions lifted

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Minnie Hick’s granddaughter is tormented watching a video of her grandmother alone in her room.

“She cries. She cries for somebody to please help her. ‘Dear God. Please. Help me. Tell me what to do. I don’t know what to do,'” said Crystal Thigpen.

The family was optimistic after Governor Ron Desantis lifted restrictions on nursing home visitations.

RECOMMENDED: Visitations at Florida long-term care facilities to resume but with limitations: Gov. DeSantis

But two weeks later, they say they still aren’t allowed inside to spend time with Minnie, who is 98 years old and has dementia.

“People need human connection. The way Governor Desantis said is, we are not asking for a miracle here. We don’t want some overwhelming presence in the place. We just want to be with our people and hug them and give them what they deserve,” said Thigpen.

Management at Lake Seminole square told Hicks’s daughter and granddaughter in an email they do not qualify as essential caregivers.

And while empathetic to their requests, they say the Governor’s order is just an outline for what to do, not a requirement.

They did just release a new visitation policy, that still involves many restrictions.

“Each and every visit and visitor must meet the guidelines as outlined in the visitation policy. We are working with this family, as we are with all families, to ensure a safe visit. The safety and well-being of residents and employees is our utmost priority. We absolutely understand how important family visitation is and will do all things possible in order for it to happen safely,” said Josh Singleton, Lake Seminole Square Executive Director.

Meanwhile, Hicks is allowed to leave for appointments and have occasional visits on her back porch.

But her granddaughter wants whatever time she has left to be special.

“People are dying. And they are dying alone and lonely. And there’s a way to make this better,” said Thigpen.

“Now that our visitation policy has been created and communicated to each resident, family, and employee, they are welcome to schedule visits. I am truly empathetic to their desire and the desire of several others. I know personally how this feels as I had to spend my grandmother’s end of life over a video call,” said Singleton.

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