By John Conway
For The Catholic Messenger
My siblings and I got the call from the nursing home on March 11 that Mom, along with all the other residents, would no longer be able to have visitors.
Having seen all the news about how vulnerable the aged are to this coronavirus, and how quickly it spreads in the environs of nursing homes, we knew it was the correct and prudent thing to do. We also knew it was about the toughest thing Mom would have to adapt to. She was still in an arm cast as she had broken the arm in a fall six weeks ago. This is in addition to the broken elbow and broken femur she has suffered in the last two years. She has dealt with all of this relatively well.
But we, her children and her lone surviving sister, knew that this forced isolation would be devastating for Mom. Between my four siblings, myself and her sister, she was accustomed to, and dependent on, receiving a personal visit nearly every day. My next youngest brother in particular, having lost his wife to cancer last year, was wonderfully faithful in visiting. They were good for each other, though a casual observer would not be able to see much interaction. They were simply THERE for one another.
This past Monday, my sister and I were tasked with taking Mom to the local hospital for an X-ray of the broken arm. We hoped it had healed to the point of being able to remove the cast, which has been an irritant to her. As things worked out, the doctor decided that the bone had healed to the point that the cast could be removed.
I discuss this only to put in context the thing(s) that Mom was most concerned with during this outing. She literally pleaded with us to return to her room with her. Her age and state of dementia make it impossible for her to grasp the danger that visitors pose to her and her fellow residents. We have had only frustration, on her part and ours, trying to communicate via phone since her hearing is very poor. During times we visited in the past, we usually did “face time” (video chats) with one or more of her grandkids or great-grandkids. She enjoys that but is incapable of doing it on her own. She doesn’t really remember who the kids are, but she feels the love and connection with them. Now, that is gone also.
The staff at the Monroe Care Center in Albia have been wonderful in trying to reassure Mom that this is a temporary thing, and we will be able to resume visits as soon as it is allowed. A couple of the management staff have made time for us to video chat with her on their personal phones, but that is asking a lot of them as their load is so much heavier now.
No group visiting is allowed, even among the residents, so there is so much more asked of the work staff in answering repeated calls to individual rooms. I pray for all of them to stay healthy so they can continue to care for Mom and all the other loved, lonely people there.
(John Conway is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Wellman.)