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This Father’s Day is a special one with nursing homes beginning to reopen to visitation after more than three months of no visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, fathers, sons and daughters could only communicate through Facetime, phone calls and window visits.  

However, two families were blessed to stay connected throughout visitor restrictions because their children are also a part of their father’s long-term care teams.  

Marilyn Garten, a Unit Charge Nurse for the past three years at Summers Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (Summers N&RC) in Hinton, says she not only feels blessed to see her father Basil Bragg, but also get to spend quality time with him. This is particularly special because others have not been able to see their families since early March.

“It feels good knowing I get to see her still,” Bragg said about his daughter being a part of the care team that includes Nursing, Activities, Dietary, Environmental, Social Services, Administration and Lifetree Therapy team members providing care for him and the other patients.

With the focus on Father’s Day, Bragg recalls his favorite memory of being a father. “I remember when her mother brought her home, and I came home from work and just got to hold her,” Bragg said. “As she grew older, she would stand up in the back seat and hug me the whole time I was trying to drive.”

A lasting memory for Garten includes the family coming together to fight a fire. Before going to bed she told her father it looked like a building on their property was on fire. “Soon after, dad came and got all of us up and we got water from the hand pump and creek. We put that fire out as a family and it was a proud moment for me,” Garten said.  

The best part of being an employee where her father is receiving care is, she gets to see him and is part of the team providing quality care for him.  

“I can spend my breaks with him and come in early before my shift to visit with him as well,” Garten said. “When I worked night shift, I would stay over so we could enjoy breakfast together in the morning.”

Garten says the lifelong lesson her father taught her was to work hard. “If you want something, you work hard to get it. He’s taught me about that dedication,” said Garten.

At Clay Health Care Center (Clay HCC), there is a similar bond between an employee and her father who is a patient at the center in the close-knit community of Ivydale, West Virginia.  

Lisa Chenoweth, a 10-year Dietary employee at Clay HCC, says she is thankful to work at the center where her father receives care. It’s comforting to be with those giving him care, but also because she gets to see him regularly during COVID-19.

“I see him daily,” Chenoweth said. “Typically, I see him on my lunch breaks,” she continued. “The best part about working at Clay HCC is that I know he’s getting the care he needs that I can’t provide on my own.”

A favorite memory with her father, Dalton Nichols, is when the family up on a hill near their house to get a Christmas tree. “Mom called it our ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas tree,” Chenoweth said. Despite the appearance of the tree, it was a special and memorable Christmas.  

Nichols shared you never know what to expect when you become a father, but all that matters is to love them. He adds it has been good to see his daughter as much as he has throughout the past several months.

Some lifelong advice from her father, “Never loan out your vehicle,” Chenoweth says while laughing.

There are going to be lots of smiles and stories shared with nursing centers across West Virginia beginning to schedule visits with loved ones for the first time since March. Employees who work in long-term care often care for their own families and become extended families to other patients.

“I have to say being a part of Clay HCC’s family has been one of the biggest blessing of my life, and I’m very thankful our employees, patients and visitors, make this center one big family,” said Clay HCC Executive Director Mariah Naylor.

About AMFM:
AMFM operates 18 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers throughout West Virginia. The care centers are in Braxton, Boone, Clay, Cabell, Summers, Fayette, Hardy, Greenbrier, Webster, Wayne, McDowell, Lincoln, Wyoming, Harrison (Clarksburg & Bridgeport), Marshall, Taylor and Mercer counties. 

AMFM’s mission is “to exemplify excellence in quality care to our customers by providing an environment that enhances personal growth, individuality, dignity and respect.”

Photo caption: Lisa Chenoweth (left), her father, Dalton Nichols (right).