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Cumming Health and Rehab holds parade for seniors and their families
CummingHealth&Rehab
Residents at Cumming Health and Rehab sit outside of the building to see their families in person for the first time since March as they drive by in a parade of signs, streamers and balloons. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Families drove through the Cumming Health and Rehab parking lot Friday morning, holding up signs saying, “We love you!” and “We miss you!” while waving, blowing kisses and saying hello to their loved ones in person for the first time since March. 

Before driving up to the nursing center, families met at the Cumming Fairgrounds to decorate their cars with balloons, posters, streamers — anything bright and fun to celebrate their friend or family member they were there to visit. 

After they were done decorating, family members piled into their cars and lined up behind a police escort, who led them down Castleberry Road to the center where they were greeted by their loved ones seated on the sidewalk just outside of the building. As the parade started to make its way into the parking lot, the seniors held up their own signs. 

Everyone, from visitors to seniors to center staff, felt overwhelmed with emotion as the parade started and families saw each other for the first time. 

CummingHealth&Rehab
A couple ties balloons to their car, getting ready to drive down to the nursing center to see their family. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
One senior could not hold back her tears when her young granddaughter called out, “I love you, grandma!” from a black SUV passing by. She has not been able to hug her granddaughter since the pandemic first began and long-term care facilities stopped accepting visitors inside more than six months ago. 

Activity Director Debbie Swanson said that, usually, families are able to visit anytime, and staff even take residents out shopping and take them out to eat. Now, they are struggling to find a “new normal,” coming up with new activities and ways to inspire positivity and motivation. This was how they eventually came up with the idea for the parade. 

“I figured it would lift the residents’ spirits and probably lift the families’,” Swanson said. “We have wonderful families who have been supportive of us, and we’re just really blessed.”  

Dot Harbin, a resident at Cumming Health and Rehab, said that the last time she was able to see her son was three months ago for her birthday in May. 

Her son and his wife still had to stay outside, but they were able to see each other through one of the windows at the front of the building while they talked on the phone. They made her posters that day for her to hang up in her room as a reminder that her family loves and misses her. 

She said it was amazing to be able to see them again today as they drove by, waving giant signs and blowing kisses her

CummingHealth&Rehab
Drivers wave out at their friend with a sign hanging from their car that reads, "Hola Rita! We love you and miss you!" - photo by Sabrina Kerns
way. 

“I miss my family so much,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. 

Harbin, along with many others who visited and got to see their families on Friday, was thankful for the staff at Cumming Health and Rehab for setting up the parade and giving them that chance to reconnect with those they have been missing so much during the pandemic. 

As visitors were leaving, they also dropped off gifts, flowers and balloons with staff members for their family members to hold onto in their rooms. 

“That was amazing,” Swanson said, excited to see so many happy faces even as the last of the cars pulled away and staff guided residents back inside.