WEST FARGO — The last time Jodee Bock saw her mother in person at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings Care Center here late in the fall, they talked and sang together.
More recently, with only virtual visits allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 89-year-old Maurene Bock has been mostly unresponsive.
“Once in a while, she won't even open her eyes, and so I can see that she's really declined over the last six weeks,” Bock said.
However, with vaccinations against the virus beginning at long term care centers, people like Bock hope they can soon visit loved ones face-to-face again on a regular basis, and that those visits will be a much-needed respite from months of isolation.
Nursing homes in Minnesota, including Eventide on Eighth in Moorhead, began rolling out vaccinations on Monday, Dec. 28.
People in nursing homes, mostly elderly and with underlying health conditions, are at greatest risk for serious complications of COVID-19.
Of the 1,282 North Dakotans to date who’ve died with the virus, approximately 60% were long-term care residents, according to the state Department of Health.
Bock said she’ll do whatever it takes to be with her mom.
If vaccines allow families, schools, businesses and nursing homes to get back to some sense of normalcy, “that’s what we've been waiting for,” she said.
Before moving to West Fargo, Maurene Bock and her family lived in Lisbon, N.D., where she was a longtime teacher.
“Three generations of families. They say she was one of their favorite teachers,” Jodee Bock said.
Her mother has lived in Sheyenne Crossings for nearly five years, and Bock visited often until the pandemic struck and nursing homes had to lock down.
“Instead of being able to just pop in whenever I wanted to at any time of the day or night, I had to schedule things and I couldn't keep track of her the way I wanted to,” she said.
There were window visits in March and April, where she could at least see her mom through a pane of glass. Then, over the summer, Bock could visit in person, outdoors.
They celebrated her mother’s birthday in June, with balloons and cake.
But as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in North Dakota spiked in October and November, everything shut down again.
Bock said she knows her mom is getting good care, but it’s difficult to gauge how she's doing through a video screen.
She doesn’t know whether the decline is related to her mother’s Parkinson’s disease and dementia, the isolation from family or both.
Nursing home visitation is currently based on a county’s COVID positivity rate and whether a facility has had an outbreak in the last two weeks, according to Shelly Peterson, president of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association.
With improvements seen in those areas, many facilities are starting to offer one-on-one, limited visitation.
“We hope we are turning the corner,” Peterson said, adding that it’s been a difficult stretch for residents and their families.
This week, Bock received the news that she’s able to visit her mom in person, masked, in a communal space at Sheyenne Crossings on Thursday, Dec. 31.
Her sister will drive up from Fergus Falls to also be there.
Bock will cherish the time, because only now does she realize what she took for granted, pre-pandemic.
Before, she’d take her mom out to shop, get a pedicure or to have a piece of pie.
She’s optimistic the physical visit will bring an emotional boost.
“I hope that knowing I'm in the same room with her… she can sense me being there,” Bock said.