For the first time in three months, a local father and son sat face-to-face for a morning visit this week.

Todd Janssen and his father, Roy, who lives at a Decker’s Family Care facility, were finally able to visit outdoors, without a window between them Monday, after some restrictions involving long-term care were lifted by the Minnesota Department of Health, or MDH.

“I brought you some candy,” Todd told his father, who examined the two bags of chocolates. “I thought you might be running low.”

Sitting 6 feet apart, the duo were the first to visit this way at a Decker’s facility since lock down restrictions were put in place in March because of COVID-19.

“It’s really good medicine for the residents to be able to near their loved ones,” said John Decker, of Decker’s Family Care. “”They’ve been without this kind of connection with family for three months. It takes a toll on their mental health.”

Prior to eased restrictions, the facility had a system set up for online video and closed window visits, but it doesn’t compare to sitting across from each other, Decker said.

Todd agreed.

“My dad is 97 years old,” he said. “He can’t hear very well so when we were on the other side of the window, I had to take a notepad with a magic marker and write in big letters. It was tough.”

MDH issued new guidance last week for long-term care facilities looking for safe ways to allow friends and family members to visit residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We continue to recognize how the effects of isolation can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of residents and know that visitor restrictions have been extremely challenging for all of us over these last several months,” MDH officials said in a news release.

Decker’s Family Care, like other long term care facilities, are taking precautions to keep residents, staff and others safe. Decker’s requires appointments to visit with a resident be made 24 hours in advance; family members will go through a phone screening prior to the visits, they will have their temperature taken upon arrival and they must properly wear a mask at all times.

“We are strict on these policies,” Decker said. “We have 16 residents and nobody has even had a cold in nine months.”

Decker credited staff for keeping residents safe and taking precautions outside of work.

“What keeps me up at night is worrying about COVID-19 getting into the facility,” he said. “My staff is doing an amazing job with cleaning schedules and precautions.”

While the restrictions don’t allow for the normal visits between the Janssens and other families, Todd said it’s a step in the right direction.

“Sitting across the table from him is a heck of a lot better than on the other side of a window,” he said. “Even if it’s sitting on a deck hollering back and forth so he can hear me – this is just better. I already made my next appointment to see him.”

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