Jennifer Herrold, the executive director at Consulate Health Care of Port Charlotte was busy working in her office when she was notified by the receptionist that “Reverend Luff is outside, and he wants to see his wife.” Normally, this wouldn’t be any cause for concern, but because of COVID-19, family and friends have been prohibited from visiting the center since March.
It had been a long six months since Reverend Luff and his wife of 70 years had seen each other. And this day was a special one, it was their 70th wedding anniversary. Mrs. Luff suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and has been living at the care center for several years. Rev. Luff was determined to have a visit with his wife on this special day. Wearing a suit and accompanied by three of their five sons and a news reporter, Rev. Luff anxiously waited outside.
Just days before Rev. Luff’s visit, Florida’s Governor had signed an executive order outlining provisions for re-opening nursing centers across the state and CHC Port Charlotte was still in the process of ensuring that all protocols were in place. Herrold had to make an executive decision that was ultimately driven by her heart. Always looking for a way to keep her residents happy, she assembled her team to safely prepare a place for the visit to occur, and then grabbed COVID-19 education materials and provided special training for Rev. Luff. Suited up in personal protective equipment, Rev. Luff entered the building, leaving his sons and the reporter outside.
What happened next was “the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Herrold. Escorted by a restorative aide and additional staff holding her hands, Mrs. Luff walked into the lobby to reunite with her husband. The staff who were present in the lobby were so touched by the scene, they were all crying.
The reporter being held outside the building lent her camera to Herrold to take photos of the reunion. Herrold was able to capture a photo of the sweet couple with their sons watching through a window in the background. The Luffs, who hosted a radio show together in the 1950’s had a strong connection through faith and music. During the visit, Rev. Luff sang a familiar tune to his beloved wife. The reunion was captured on cell phone video for the sons. While the visit lasted only 30 minutes or so, the fond memories will last a lifetime.
Herrold said “the reunion has taken on a life of its own.” She received letters from previous rehabilitation patients and various other members of the community, all praising her and the care center for enabling the heartwarming visit. The Florida Health Care Association even featured the anniversary meeting of the Luffs in their weekly press release recognizing precious reunions like theirs from around the state. She received a thank you note from the family. “It’s beautiful to see a family so dedicated to their loved one,” said Herrold.
The reunion was good for everyone’s soul, and provided a positive preview of what life can look like beyond the pandemic.
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