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Long-term care residents make plans to see family this Easter weekend, some haven't left their centers in nearly a year

Newly relaxed restrictions from the Minnesota Department of Health mean thousands of long-term care residents can see family for the first time in months.

MINNESOTA, USA — In times of uncertainty and sadness, many fall back on their faith, but for residents in assisted living centers it hasn't been easy.

For many seniors who are devoted to their faith, going to weekly services is a part of their routine.

Many seniors have been able to watch religious services on TV, online, or in some assisted living centers, but most haven’t been able to go to in-person services, until now.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health announced most residents in long-term care facilities will be able to leave the center for up to 24 hours to visit family and friends.

Health officials say even residents who haven’t been vaccinated can still take advantage of this new opportunity to see loved ones.

Officials say residents won’t have to quarantine when they get back to their centers, as long as they don’t come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID.

For many families, this news comes at a perfect time, just days before Easter Sunday.

"My mother-in-law is a retired minister and missing church has been very hard on her,” daughter-in-law MaryLou Tyler says.

"She has been talking about going to church for a very long time. So she is very relieved, very excited."

Tyler says it's been a rough year for her mother-in-law Mary.

She left her home in Albuquerque New Mexico last March to officiate a family wedding here in Minnesota.

"Then COVID hit and then she had a few health setbacks and some things happened that were completely unanticipated,” Tyler says.

Mary spent the first few months of the pandemic living with her family in Minnesota.

In November however, her family decided it was time to check Mary into an assisted living center in Vadnais Heights.

“She hasn’t been outside very much since then,” Tyler says.

“She’s been on the patio once, maybe twice since November.”

But after five long months stuck inside, Mary is finally getting her wish.

"I’m really happy,” Mary says.

“It's important for me to go to church, especially on Easter."

For Mary, it means the world to her, to finally get out and spend Easter Sunday with her family, but for Tyler, it means so much more.

"I lost my mother in December to COVID and she was in a care facility. So, I know how important it is to be able to connect with your family as soon as possible and start celebrating the holidays and even the micro holidays, just little accomplishments,” Tyler says.

“I have to grab onto my mother-in-law because losing my mother, it’s been really crappy.”

A loss so many have felt during this pandemic.

A painful reminder of how precious time is and the importance of living in the moment and sharing those moments with others.

"It's been a long year, like it has been for everybody, and just having a little snippet of normal is really important,” Tyler says.

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