‘We don’t have much time left:’ Couple separated by pandemic awaits reunion

Carol Bunning hasn’t been able to visit husband in more than 5 months

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – This Sunday will be the first time in 58 years, Carol Bunning will not be able to celebrate her husband’s birthday by his side. Her husband, Cort Bunning, diagnosed with dementia, will turn 82 years old inside a long-term memory care center in The Villages.

“It’s the first birthday we won’t be together,” Carol Bunning said. “We met when we were very young. I was 19. He was 20. We have been together for every single birthday after that so it will be the first birthday we can’t be together. It’s hard.”

Bunning said before the pandemic, she would spend every afternoon visiting her husband, sitting in the garden and talking with other residents. She said one night after a visit, she got a phone call the long-term care facility was shutting down to visitors.

“Cut off like that, so quickly,” she said. “All of a sudden you couldn’t go anymore. In the very beginning I thought it would be a few weeks, never dreaming it would be five months. It’s been too long.”

Since then she praises the facility for offering as many Zoom, FaceTime and phone calls as possible, having to register online to get her husband to use one of the iPads to video call her. However, she said she knows her husband goes through good days and bad days. Bunning added one particular bad day is when she went for a window visit.

“He cried when I had window visits,” she said. “That was hard, he didn’t like the idea that I was outside the building and he was inside the building.”

Bunning emailed News 6 expressing that many residents inside long-term care facilities are becoming lonely, wanting to know when they will be able to accept visitors again.

“It’s palpable you can feel these people are lonely and sad,” she said. “When you get to be in your 80s, if you are lucky you have a few years ahead of you, but everyday is precious.”

This week the governor’s Limited Reopening of Long-Term Care Facilities Task Force finalized their recommendations that would begin allowing limited visitation to facilities that have not had any new onset of COVID-19 cases in 14 days. The task force also recommended to allow essential caregivers, the ones closet to the resident and provides bathing, dressing and eating, can also touch them.

Bunning tears up thinking of the moment she will be able to hold her husbands hand again.

“Oh my, it would be like getting married all over again, it would be wonderful,” she said. “Maybe to some people 5 months doesn’t seem like a long time but when you are older, everyday is precious and 5 months is a long time.”

Governor Ron DeSantis’ press secretary said the governor is waiting an official report from the task force before deciding when the next steps to reopening will be.

“We don’t have much time left, let’s make it the best it can be,” Bunning said.

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