For the past year, Karl Waitschies has made the 10-mile drive to Belleview Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado, three times a week. With a window separating them and a phone to talk through, Karl would visit his wife Donna, who he has been married to for 55 years.
Karl and Donna had been separated since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Donna’s assisted living facility, where she has spent the last three years due to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, stopped allowing visitors inside.
“I care for her. I love her, but I can’t be with her, and that’s hard,” he told 9news in January. “She’s the love of my life.”
He added, “We know they won’t be with us much longer. People are ill. They’re elderly, and we want to be with them to help them through this stage.” As he peered through the window at his college sweetheart each week, Karl would tell his wife: “I’m here for you, honey.” Last month, Karl was finally able to embrace his wife for the first time after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that nursing homes could once again allow visitors to come indoors, 9News reported.
Walking into Belleview Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care, Karl couldn’t help but smile. “I get to see her,” he joyfully told 9News. Karl cried as he hugged his wife. He held her hand during the entire 30-minute visit, reassuring her and singing to her. As grateful as he was to finally be with Donna, Karl said that the moment when he could finally hug her was a bittersweet one, as he could see how Donna had deteriorated since he’d last seen her up close. “I’m glad I finally got to see her, but it’s just really hard,” he said.