‘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.”

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