Florida man in nursing home with dementia thought wife had died

As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis looks for ways to allow caregivers safely back into nursing homes, an Orlando woman hopes her message convinces him to do it soon.

Pat Strasberg says her husband, Ron, is the love of her life. Even though he has dementia, she would spend every day with her 78-year-old spouse at a memory care facility until the pandemic hit.

"Went to the building and they said, 'You can’t come in anymore!'"  

When Ron accidentally fell and was sent to the hospital, Pat got a moment to visit him in the ER and what happened was amazing.

RELATED: Governor limits visitors to nursing homes, seeking to shield Florida's elderly from COVID-19

"I took my mask off and I looked at him and I said, 'Ron?' And he said, 'Is that you, Patty?' And I said, 'Yes!' and he started to cry and said, 'I thought you passed away." 

She grabbed his hand and just held it.

"Just started to cry. Just was very emotional. I didn’t expect that answer, but when he gave it, it touched my heart. And I realize that he did, in some deep part of his dementia, his real self was inside." 

Now that Ron is back in his memory care facility, Pat is trying to get DeSantis to make changes so she and others can visit their loved ones in nursing homes again.

"I did a letter-writing campaign to the politicians explaining my story and hoping that we can make some changes under restrictions and I think we would follow them."

Michelle Branham of the Florida Alzheimer’s Association is on a task force to try and find a good solution that works for everyone.
She has even reached out to other states for solutions.

"Now the conversation is how can we keep everyone safe and get visitation as well," she said. "I’m hopeful that it is as quick as humanly possible."

So after 54 years of marriage, Pat hopes to find a way to be with Ron again.

"When you spend your life with someone and go through the chapters of life on our journey, there’s up, there’s downs but your always connected. Now I just feel I’ve lost half of myself."