KITCHENER -- Pandemic restrictions are being lifted at long-term care homes across the province, with visitors now allowed to give brief hugs to their loved ones.

Chartwell Westmount resident Mary Ellen Lahn hadn't seen her son and daughter-in-law in person for almost a year amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions but was reunited Thursday.

"Well, I didn't cry but I felt like it," Mary Ellen said. "We are making up for it, we can hug as of last night."

The family caught up in the garden at the Kitchener long-term care home.

"Just seeing someone in person after talking, you can't compare it," said Mary Ellen's daughter-in-law, Carol Lahn. "I just didn't have words."

Restrictions in long-term care homes are lifting province-wide because of high levels of vaccination. The biggest change is that fully vaccinated residents can now leave their long-term care home for day trips and overnight visits.

"Fully vaccinated families no longer have to wear a face shield if they are an essential caregiver coming into the home," said Heather Karrow, Chartwell Westmount's program and support service manager.

For families with loved ones in long-term care homes, the lifting of restrictions is welcome news, offering a chance to reconnect after a long time apart.

"She can spend some time in our backyard, we can show her some things that are going on in our house or things we have outside," said Delaney Scott, whose grandmother is in a long-term care home. "There's just a lot more freedom."

"One of my children likes to play guitar so maybe come out and play a song for grandma, come out and everyone have a little bit of a visit," said Tiffany Scott, whose mother-in-law is in a long-term care home. "Just some nice times sitting in some chairs and chit-chatting, just catching up in a more natural way."