After in-person visits curtailed, Littleton woman uses phone, visits mom through nursing home window

96-year old resident dances to favorite music
Posted at 2:02 PM, Mar 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-28 17:11:20-04

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you know how frustrating the COVID-19-related bans on "in-person" visits can be.

Gail Crespin knows the bans exist for the safety of residents like her 96-year old mom, Cleo, but she said that doesn't make it any easier.

"I'm a touchy person," Crespin said. "We spend a lot of time sitting very, very close to each other. I comb her hair and make sure her clothes are clean. I do her nails."

But Crespin hasn't been able to do any of those things for nearly two weeks.

"It's hard," she said.

Cleo Madrill has been a resident at Brookside Inn in Castle Rock for several months.

Crespin visited her daily until the rules changed. That's when she started calling Cleo on the phone, but it wasn't enough.

Finally, Crespin contacted Brookside Inn and arranged to meet her mom at one of the windows.

Touching through glass

They now talk on the phone and see each other through the window.

They hold their hands up to each other and nearly touch through the glass.

"I love you, mom," Crespin said Thursday afternoon, before asking, "would you like to hear some music?"

Cleo nodded, "yes," and said she'd like to hear, "You are my Sunshine."

Her granddaughter, Anne Demko, punched up the song, put it on speakerphone, and held it up to her mom's phone.

Cleo sang along.

Demko then punched up "Adelita," a Mexican folk song.

Cleo's eyes lit up, and she began to dance.

Demko said it's wonderful to see her grandmother in such good shape and to experience music with her.

When Crespin asked why she liked that song so much, Cleo replied, "it was my mother's song."

San Luis Valley roots

Cleo was born in the San Luis Valley, was orphaned at four, and then grew up in Leadville.

After moving to Denver, she began raising a family and then decided to attend Opportunity School, to become a nurse.

She walked daily from her home near 3rd and Steele, in Cherry Creek, to her job at Denver General Hospital.

"Once my mom makes her mind up about something, she becomes very, very focused," Crespin said.

When asked if Cleo understands why her daughter and granddaughter can't come inside the nursing home for a visit, Crespin replied, "She's a retired RN, so she understands things about the pandemic. She knows."

"It's really easy to get sad about it," Demko said, "but she is so safe here."

Demko told Denver7 that before the pandemic began, they took Cleo to her old neighborhood and showed her the house where she raised her family.

"The owner invited her in," she said. "She offered to have a big birthday party for Cleo at the end of April."

Cleo will be 97 then.

Crespin said it may be a while before the COVID threat disappears, and the in-person visit ban is lifted, but she said she's looking forward to it.

"Once it is over, we are going to come here, and I will check her hair and check her teeth and do her nails."

Then Cleo can flash her smile and take another turn on the dance floor.