HYATTSVILLE, Md. — For the past year, many nursing home residents have lived in near-isolation because of COVID-19.
In many ways, Judy Porter was one of them. She hasn't seen her two grandkids in a year. At least, not really.
"The hardest part was, you know, not being able to see your family," she said.
They've visited her at the Sacred Heart Home in Hyattsville throughout the pandemic but each visit was separated by a pane of glass. They had to communicate through a closed window.
"I would be on one side of the glass and they would be on the other and I'd play hand games with them on the glass," Porter said. "I saw my family and you know talked to them but it's just not the same."
The separation was part of an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 at a facility that lost close to five residents to the virus.
It was a year of isolation and suffering that shook even the devout Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate who lead the nursing home.
"Some moments I would just sit face to face with God and, and ask God...what good is going to come out of it?" Sister Vacha Kludziak said.
But Kludziak never lost her resolve.
"Faith is based on not knowing but trusting God and His presence and I knew He was, He is here always," she said.
Porter didn't lose hers either. And now, as of March 1, loosening coronavirus restrictions at Sacred Heart mean she can finally see her grandkids in-person.
"I'd jump up and down for joy," Porter said. "It's just great, you know, because there's so many people here, you know, they talk about their families all the time and, you know, just for everybody to be able to see their families again."
"There's hope," she added. "You can see the light of the day."
In-person visitors at Sacred Heart must still wear masks and social distance, according to Kludziak.
Visitation policies at other nursing homes in the region may be different given individual operating practices and local health ordinances.
This week, the federal government announced indoor nursing home visits are allowed for residents who have been vaccinated as long as COVID-19 precautions are taken.