Elderly Care

Below is the full text of a submission detailing the experience of the family of one 89 year old woman as family members were kept from visiting for the last six weeks of her life in the fall of 2020. It has been edited only to insert paragraph breaks. Please contact Covid Stories Archive if you would like to use or reproduce this essay, in whole or in part, for your research or writing. Also, please consider sharing your own stories for preservation in our archive.

My 89 year old mom passed away alone in a hospital, after being denied visitors and an advocate for 6 weeks. This is her story.

My mom suffered from many ailments, 3rd stage kidney disease, lung cancer (in remission), and congestive heart failure. She was a twice diagnosed breast cancer survivor. She had many battles throughout her life and she always came through. As my mom was elderly and infirm, we knew that the sars cov2 virus would present a real challenge to her. She was being taken care of at home by my sister, and my 92 year old father as her companion. My sister somehow picked up the virus, even though she wore a mask everywhere and was very careful about everything.

Soon my dad and mom caught it. My dad had a slight cold for a few days and recovered. Because my mom already had breathing issues due to fluid build up in her tissues, we monitored her very closely, She got a cough and her oxygen levels went below 90 so my sister, out of concern, got her to the hospital. They admitted her to the Covid ICU floor. The next day her numbers were better and she was on a bipap for oxygen.

During the nighttime in the past year, my mom would always wake up and tell my dad she couldn’t breathe. So when the first night the nurse told us she did this we told her that this was normal for my mom. In the early morning of the second night, we received a call that my moms oxygen levels were too low and they put her on a ventilator and gave her an 18% chance of surviving. This was in November of 2020, which by this time they knew the issue with ventilators in treating this virus. At this point we had no other options.

My mom started to slowly decline every day. By day 5, they said if we removed her from all life saving machines and put her on hospice, they would allow one person to see her. She also did not have a dnr, and they highly suggested we do that. My dad had full authority and would not give in, so they kept her on machines and would allow us no visitation. Even though my sister and dad had just recovered from Covid and posed no threat.

At this time she was no longer Covid positive so they put her in a regular room and told us we needed to transfer her to an acute care hospital. We pleaded with them for visitation, and actually got the ambulance company that was transferring her to agree to allow my sis and dad to visit while they wheeled her out. The hospital agreed but at the last minute said they could not allow. My sister made a big fuss about it and they capitulated, but only allowed her to be seen in the parking lot as she was being loaded into the ambulance. My dad and sis went out that day, and they said it was the first time they saw expression on her face. Before this, we were allowed zoom calls by the chaplain and my mom was expressionless and distant. Before all this, my mom was very alert and aware.

After being transferred to the new hospital, no longer Covid or on a Covid floor, we were still allowed no visitation. We bought a large tablet and stand and called every night to talk to her. We had to wait for a nurse to answer the call, but we were determined to let her know we were still there. During this whole time, she never again responded to our voices.

We got conflicting reports from the doctors and the nurses. We asked multiple questions but when you are not able to see or process all of the care a person is being given, it is hard to make assessments from afar. We were repeatedly told that if we want someone to visit we would have to take her off all life saving machines, and my dad did not want to lose hope. The last call we got was after about six weeks of this when they called to say her heart stopped.

My mom died with no one that loved her by her side for a month and a half. We don’t know if she ever heard our voices or understood what was happening. If you ask anyone who knew her, they would tell you that she was the most selfless, giving, loving person they knew. And at the end of her life, she was treated as just a statistic.

I never imagined this to happen in our country. I never imagined people could be so cold and heartless, and so fearful that something like this would be ok. I want this NEVER to happen again. I don’t care if there’s a worse pandemic ravaging everywhere and the world is on fire. This is the most inhumane practice we have allowed, and shame on the medical community and everyone else that allowed this and accepted it.

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