There were tears of joy when 91-year-old Willie James Gallagher was reunited with two of his children for the first time in 16 weeks.
A new visiting area has been created in at Áras Uí Dhomhnaill Nursing Home in Milford to allow safe visits during the pandemic.
While hugs still cannot happen, waves and smiles were more than enough for the Fanad man who was “delighted” to see his daughter Elizabeth McGinley and son James Gallagher again.
“When I saw them my heart just lifted,” Willie said, “they are my pride and joy.”
“I’m thankful to the God above for giving them back to me again.”
For Elizabeth and James, it also did the heart good to see Willie in good form.
“It was emotional to see him and we’ve never seen him looking so well,” Elizabeth said.
“The nurses are exceptionally good here, they treat Daddy like a granda.”
Willie, who is a proud grandfather of eight and great-grandfather of six, added: “I’ve a good family at home and they are more than good to me, like the nurses here.”
Willie kept in contact with him over the phone since March. Some Áras Uí Dhomhnaill residents used FaceTime to stay in touch, while others came to the windows to see their loved ones from outside.
“We didn’t want to come to the window in case it would upset him,” Elizabeth said.
“We just talked to him on the phone and the nurses rang us anytime he wanted to speak to us.”
Comfort, safety and peace of mind were to the fore as the visitor area was designed in Áras Uí Dhomhnaill. The private area is fitted out with comfortable chairs on each side and a microphone for enhanced sound. Visitors enter through a door leading directly from outside to avoid entering the main nursing home and all furniture is cleaned between visits.
The phased reintroduction of visiting to nursing homes begins from today, June 15th. Nursing homes have new guidelines and procedures to follow and will have to be free of coronavirus infections for 28 days in order to open again.
To date Áras Uí Dhomhnaill has not had any Covid-19 infections.
Anne Mc Gilloway, Director of Nursing is proud of her team: “We were very lucky we didn’t have Covid-19 and that is down to our incredibly hard working, selfless and thoughtful staff. They have been fantastic, there is no doubt about that. They have sacrificed so much and some haven’t got to see families because they were trying their best to keep Covid-19 out,” she said.
Knowing the home was Covid-free was also a major relief for families of the 47 residents.
Elizabeth said: “It’s a credit to them to keep the virus out. It’s a big consolation for us as a family. When it happened we didn’t have to worry about the quality of care Daddy was getting.”
Willie spent his days during ‘the disease’, as he calls it, calling bingo, potting plants and painting. He claims to be the best bingo caller in Donegal, and staff won’t disagree.
His three children, Elizabeth, James and Barbara, received regular photos from the nursing home in recent months showing what Willie was getting up to.
Now that they can visit again, they say they will be happy to follow all necessary guidelines.
Elizabeth said: “We’ll visit every week and that’s fine. We don’t mind what the precautions are. It was very hard not seeing him but it’s for his protection and for every one of the residents.
“If it has to be like this for the next year then so be it, as long as he’s healthy and the rest of the residents are too. You have to be practical about this situation.”
Matron Anne McGilloway added: “It’s been hard on everybody but it has worked out. Our residents and their families have been so patient and understanding since we closed our nursing home to all visitors so it’s great to be in a position to allow visitors catch up with our residents safely.”