Long-Term Care Facilities Come Back to Life as Residents Get Vaccinated

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — From the moment Stephen Earl heard his daughter Lauren was getting married, all he could think of was the moment he would walk her down the aisle.

“That’s what fathers do to their daughters — give them away,” Earl told Spectrum News 1.

A few months earlier, Earl had suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. Determined to be there for the big day, he ramped up his physical therapy at Raya’s Paradise Assisted Living Community in West Hollywood.

“It was going to be a surprise to her at the end when they say, ‘Who gives this woman away?’ I was going to say, ‘Me! I do!’” Earl said.

He was making good progress until coronavirus cases in Southern California skyrocketed and his facility went under lockdown. Earl was unable to see his physical therapist or even his family.

“It was very unexpected,” said CEO Moti Gamburd. “We didn’t know what it was or what to do.”

It’s been tough year for people living in long term care facilities, where more than 163,000 residents and employees have died due to the virus nationwide — about a third of all U.S. COVID deaths. These days, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are coming back to life, as more and more have completed vaccinating all their residents.

At Raya’s Paradise, that means singing nights with performer Spring Grove are back, and not a moment too soon. For Earl, being vaccinated has meant being able to return to his physical therapy. Now he is hell-bent on getting his legs moving again and from the looks of it, nothing is going to stop him.

“I’m looking forward to surprising family members,” he said. “They haven’t seen what I’ve gone through. They just remember when I was in ICU and couldn’t hold my head up.”

His daughter Lauren is breathing a sigh of relief. Not only can her father make it to the wedding, he can make it safely.

“There’s a sense of independence that he’s gaining and there’s also that sense of my independence that I’m gaining as he’s giving me away,” she said.

Now, Earl is hoping that walking his daughter down the aisle on her special day will be a piece of cake.

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