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Arkansas nursing homes cannot allow visitors for Thanksgiving due to COVID-19 cases

Dozens of nursing homes in Arkansas are having to get creative this year for Thanksgiving after some see more COVID-19 cases.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Dozens of nursing homes in Arkansas are having to get creative this year for Thanksgiving after some see more COVID-19 cases.

As the virus keeps finding its way into nursing homes, residents are having to do without their typical celebrations this year. 

"We wanted it to be as close to normal as we can make it for them," Vickey Kirkemier said. "The residents are actually very accepting of the situation."

Vickey Kirkemier is the administrator of Superior Health and Rehab in Conway, where visitors are not allowed inside on Thanksgiving Day because of recent positive tests.

"All it takes is one and for 14 days you're shut down and can't take visitation," she said.

So instead, the nursing home is having to get creative, some families bringing food from home for their loved one.

"They drop it off with our hospitality cart. Then they go to the window and they sit and visit with each other there," she said.

If families can't make it for a window visit, the facility is also busy setting up lots of Facetime and Zoom calls.

"We bought altogether 10 iPads with additional hearing devices," Kirkemier said.

She also said the nursing home is allowing residents to social distance and eat Thanksgiving dinner with a friend inside the nursing home. 

One friend will sit in the doorway, while the other stays inside the room, so they can socialize. 

"There is a lot of joy and happiness going on and we’re all adjusting inside here just like we are in our own home," Kirkemier said.

Rachel Bunch is the executive director of the Arkansas Healthcare Association. She said out of the more than 300 long-term facilities in the state, 118 will not allow visitors on Thanksgiving.

"Several facilities are struggling with really big outbreaks in our state. We have had some that had outbreaks and are recovering," Bunch said.

Bunch said these facilities are finding ways to still find the joy during this unusual time.

"One home I've talked to, they were setting up lights outside the facility to display for their residents to be able to see."

If you have a loved one in a long-term care facility and are curious about the current visitation policy, give them a call before you go.