By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – State officials have now issued new guidelines that will allow nursing home residents to have face-to-face visitors for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.  Starting today, residents can have a maximum of two visitors at any time. Visitors have to make an appointment in advance, wear masks and stay at least 6 feet apart.

It’s the first time Bobby Pace has seen his mother in two-and-a-half months at Sea View Retreat in Rowley.  “I said ‘Hey Mom, it’s me, Bobby’ and she smiled.”  It’s a smile he has missed from his mother who has dementia.  There was no hugging or kissing allowed, but there was finally a connection.  “Once I started talking to her calling her name then she remembered and I kept saying, ‘I love you, I love you,’,” said Pace.

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Resident Maria Serena has been confined to her room at Charlwell House in Norwood, and today was her first day out in more than two months.

“I feel great just being here,” she said. ” I talk to myself and tell myself this isn’t forever,” she said.  She’s looking forward to visits from her sons who, she says, have called her almost daily.

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Charlwell House Administrator Chris Roberts said the new guidelines are a game-changer.  “A lot of people don’t get to see family much when they’re here, and then not being able to see them at all has been so detrimental.”

It’s been lonely for Maria with no communal meals or games, and she’s been anxious about the virus outbreak.  “I have anxiety, you know, alone, and that adds to it a little bit.”

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Pace worries his mother has been confused and felt abandoned but is looking forward to a return to his daily visits.  “No doubt it’s bringing her back a little.”

Beth Germano