‘He needs people… he needs family’: Woman begs to see her sick father in nursing home

Correction: This article has been updated to include the correct information regarding Fieldstone Memory Care’s visitation restrictions.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A heartbreaking plea from a daughter aching to see her dad.

“He needs people… he needs family,” Corinne Hensley said.

Hensley’s father is an 88 year-old suffering from Alzheimer’s at Fieldstone Memory Care on the South Hill. Now, he’s battling COVID-19, too.

Thankfully, Vernon Gallup just has mild symptoms, but Hensley knows how quickly that can change.

She’s gone six months without seeing her day, until she showed up to Fieldstone today and tapped on his window.

“He smiled, so I know he’s feeling OK,” Hensley said. “I think he has some muscle aches, he wasn’t coughing, his nose was running but that was about it.”

Fieldstone Memory Care has since told 4 News Now that families of residents have been allowed to have window visits since June. They said there was a brief, temporary pause this week to discuss restrictions with state officials, but aside from that, window visits were allowed.

In an update to 4 News Now, the long-term care facility and Hensley both said communication issues were the reason for her not knowing window visits were allowed. Hensley said a few families, like hers, were not on an email list notifying them of changes to visitation restrictions. That has since been fixed.

“We have had many families take advantage of the window visits, and it’s been wonderful to see them connect,” Fieldstone told 4 News Now. “All visits have been scheduled in advance so that we can follow all state guidelines for safely conducting the visits.

Fieldstone has also said the changes were also updated on social media, but Hensley was not aware. Now, Hensley said she’s just happy to be able to seem her dad, albeit through a window.

Now, we know one staff member and three residents, including Gallup, have tested positive for the virus this week, according to Fieldstone.

She says virtual visits are hard since an employee isn’t always there to give him the phone.

It’s also important for people with Alzheimer’s to be able to see faces, so they can try and remember people.

“When I went and smiled at him through the window, I had to make sure I wasn’t wearing a mask so he knew exactly who I was,” Hensley said.

And from a distance, he still knew she was his daughter.

“He recognized me enough to smile,” Hensley said.

Hensley wishes the facility would call her more often. She’s also worried about how safe he is in there, but said the state health department is checking on her dad everyday.

Hensley told 4 News Now Sunday the facility has increased communications with her, and she was also able to window visit with him again.

His fight with COVID-19 comes just a month from his birthday.

“He’ll be 89 then… I’m just hoping he makes it,” Hensley said.

That’s why she’s asking people to mask up in public, especially around older people.

“Because they’ll die, and we don’t want that,” she said.

Hensley said the long-term care facility is allowing her to have a window visit with her dad Thursday. She said she will be temperature checked and he will wear a mask when she visits.

Fieldstone sent 4 News Now a statement, saying in part, “This is such difficult news for our families as well as our staff.”

The memory care center has been working with local and state health officials to keep those infected contained on one side of the building.

These are the first cases reported from the facility since the pandemic started, and they said it happened despite extreme caution for the virus.