France Cedes And Authorizes Visits To Nursing Homes

PARIS (AP) – For her first authorized visit to her octogenarian mother in more than six weeks, Sabrina Deliry prepared a selection of her favorite songs, including “La Vie en Rose” by Edith Piaf.

Later, in the nursing home where her mother suffers in the solitude of her room, feeling prisoner and miserable, without the sun bathing her cheeks, without the wind shaking her hair and without the tender embraces of her daughter, They listened to the singer together.


“When he takes me in his arms …” Piaf whispered.

The two of them were sitting three feet away, unable to hug or touch each other during their half-hour visit in a small enclosed geriatric garden. It all seemed like a cruel joke.

When will Sabrina be able to hug Patricia, her mother again? Nobody knows. Probably not in the short term.

Before the reopening of some businesses was authorized and the schoolyards were filled with unruly children, France began allowing strictly regulated visits to nursing homes, where a strict quarantine was not enough to contain a wave of infections in that population.

Some visitors rejoiced to see their parents again.

“I know how important it is to her,” said Christopher Cronenberger after seeing his mother, Germaine, 87, with a large table and a red and white ribbon in between.

“My mother is lucid and we talk on the phone every day. I knew everything was fine, but eye contact is better, “he said.

For others, the visits are bittersweet. They are better than nothing, but not enough. After all, sitting for a few minutes on the other side of a table, with masks and without being able to touch each other, doesn’t make up for all the time they’ve been apart.

Sabrina and Patricia spoke on the phone minutes after they said goodbye with kisses in the air and the mother returned alone to her room in an electric chair.

“Preventing us from seeing our children is a crime,” he said. “They wait for us to die before sending us our children.”

The visit, he said, “made me want to live again.”

“This is like a prison.”

As the virus spread across Europe, the hardest hit countries – Italy, Spain, Great Britain and France – banned visits to nursing homes to protect them as they are particularly vulnerable. From Belgium to Turkey other countries did the same.

In most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that disappear within two to three weeks. But it can also cause serious disorders, especially in the elderly and people with other health problems, and can be fatal.

The emotional cost of suspending visits has been high and little publicized, since the elderly suffer behind closed doors. Family members receive dropper news from the directors of the residences.

Now that visits are allowed again, a more concrete idea of ​​the agony of the elderly arises.

President Emmanuel Macron took note. He was the one who promoted the suspension of visits in March, but this week he retweeted a shocking interview to a 96-year-old woman, Jeanne Pault, who was tearfully complaining about the confinement in her room, deprived of the daily visits her husband and his family.

“I am locked up all day. This is not life, “said the old woman. “My neighbor does not have the virus. Neither do I. We could see each other from time to time. Chat a little. “

In his tweet, Macron wrote: “Madame, your pain overwhelms us all. For you, and for all of our seniors in nursing homes, loved ones are once again allowed. Always with a priority: protect them ”.

Among families, however, unrest over deaths increases. Some go to court, accusing residences of neglect and endangering the lives of the elderly.

Sabrina is one of those who believe that the residences were closed not to protect the elderly but to prevent families from seeing what was happening in there.

“It makes me sick to think about it,” he said. “It is our parents who are there, my mother. They have no right to deprive us of seeing them. ”

She fears that Patricia, a retired hairdresser who suffered a stroke, will worsen from the closure.

“I’m going to fight this,” he promised the mother when they spoke on the phone after the visit. “Speaking badly and soon, you have two options: Die from COVID or end up like a vegetable.”


Associated Press journalist Jean-François Badias contributed to this report from Kaysersberg, France.