My Mother’s Post Lockdown – The Challenges Continue

It was mid-September when I sent a text checking in with my sister and she replied “We’re with mom at the hair salon and she says hi.”

This is how I learned that restrictions had been relaxed for my 90-year-old mother Ginny who had been in lockdown inside her senior living residence for 186 days. (Click here for previous post). After all this time, she was suddenly out. Free.

Almost immediately, residents were getting picked up (and driving themselves) for Target trips, family visits and grocery runs. The automatic doors never had a chance to close.

New policies for dining in the dining room took a little longer. In fact, it was an additional month before they transitioned back to communal dining from bringing separate meals to each resident. Ultimately, they chose to seat two at a table, at staggered times. Each resident received a time that remained the same all week. Then it reset for the following week.

Rotating the “better” times was a fair approach, but Ginny’s memory is not good, so the downside was that she missed several meals.  I do think that there have been times where she showed up and they sat her regardless of her time.

And staff also opened up visitation for one family member per resident at a time. The caveat was that it be for no more than 30 minutes. Hope for growing normalcy was definitely in the air.

About two weeks ago, however, that hope was compromised in a couple of different ways. On a recent afternoon, Ginny forgot that she was getting out into the world for a hair appointment. When she was reminded that my sister-in-law Betsy (who lives close to Ginny and offered to take her) was waiting for her outside the lobby doors, she rushed downstairs, moving too quickly down a long hallway and fell. Hard. She hit the floor with the back of her head and somehow (I haven’t been able to determine her moves exactly) scraped her chin badly.

Four staff members rushed over to assist. Typically, they will first ask the resident if they want an ambulance (as many decline) but they didn’t ask. They just called 911. It must have looked bad. Ginny told me later that she kept saying “my head hurts, my head hurts.”

As they took her stretcher to the ambulance, Betsy was still waiting for her, paying no attention to the activity behind her.

Suddenly, she heard “Betsy” and turned around to see my mom being placed inside. A round of phone calls immediately began.

The emergency room staff took good care of her. They did a CT scan of her head and X-rayed her arm and leg, and there were no broken bones. At 90, that is a flat-out miracle. She told me that she had pretty good bumps on her head and arm though. She also received five stitches in her chin.

I am still unable to drive the 2-3 hours to see her because of COVID fears. I just completed cancer treatment in the early fall and am still high risk; as is she. It was an anxious afternoon waiting for updates. She didn’t leave until the evening so I called the following morning.

“Mom, how do you feel? Can you describe to me what happened?” I asked.

“Well, I’m ok, I guess. I think my shoes stuck on the floor” she offered. “They stopped and I didn’t” she added, laughing weakly. “The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by people like a flock of birds all hovering around my head.”

We continued talking and I was deeply relieved that she was coherent; providing good descriptions. But I’ll be honest. I still fear the fall may potentially trigger some type of delayed secondary consequence. A few days later, she mentioned that she had a long bruise practically all around her neck. It frightened her, but has since faded.

And within that time span between the fall and trying to get her hair done again (she was still healing and wary of going), internal COVID policies shifted once more with new rules. Sadly, state case numbers had begun to rise; substantially.

When I spoke with Ginny one morning, she mentioned a “wild” announcement she had heard that morning that they couldn’t leave their rooms at all now. She was frustrated that it would be “worse than before.”

I received more clarity later that day. She was half-right. Instead of going on full lockdown this time, the new policy states that a resident can go “off-site” as long as it is considered essential. This includes medical, the grocery store or the drive-up window at the bank. If they leave for a non-essential reason such as hair or nail appointments or holiday shopping, they will need to self-quarantine for 14 days after their return. Meals would be brought to them in that time period. Or, they can quarantine for five days and take a COVID test at their cost. Each time the resident leaves for a non-essential visit, the self-quarantine procedure resets.

In addition, the staff is strongly suggesting that residents not leave the premises to see their families for the holidays, but they are not blocking it either. In addition to the self-quarantine rule, they (and the family they are visiting) must sign a pledge stating that they will practice the following steps to ensure their safety. It lists hand-washing, avoiding large groups, social distancing, stay outside as much as possible etc.

It’s clear that the new policies favor the choice to stay in since quarantines sound cumbersome; and lonely. Who wants to stay in their unit for 14 days? Or even 5? In lockdown, mom was at least free to roam the buildings, go to the library, check her mail etc.

But I also feel like, this time, they are walking a fine line.  Previously, the full lockdown prohibited social interaction and physical connection with families which, in some cases, played a role in declining health. Now, they are placing the decision on the resident and the family, deciding what works best for their loved one. It gives both of them some control back.

It’s difficult, but that feels like the right call to me. The very latest I have heard is that the CDC is considering changing the quarantine length from 14 days to 7-10 days. Perhaps this will trickle down to the local level.

Over the past nine months, there have been so many changes layered on top of already exhausting changes. I continue to be astonished at the strength of the human spirit to endure the countless sacrifices so patiently.

Ginny has asked me so many times when I am coming over and I gently remind her that I’m afraid of the risk of the virus and she replies “Oh that’s right. I forgot” and moves on with the conversation. Between COVID and cancer treatments, it has now been a year since I’ve seen her.

Against a backdrop of COVID, her fall has also reminded me of the fragility of life and how quickly it could change. Christmas would be such a normal, visceral way to reunite, but normalcy is retreating once again. It feels like another type of long hallway that seems to keep extending. But we must all get through it safely before we can embrace our old lives again.

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com


8 thoughts on “My Mother’s Post Lockdown – The Challenges Continue

  1. Your poor mom, and poor you not being able to see her. I hope you’re able to video chat with her. This Covid thing just stinks for the whole world. I hope spring brings visits for everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel for everyone dealing with Covid, but particularly the elderly and their families. All of the changes are hard to process for us. I can’t imagine how residents could be expected to keep track of changing mealtimes. Doesn’t the staff help with this, or is it too much to manage? Does your mom have access to a cellphone to video chat, or is that beyond a reasonable expectation? I know we looked for simple solutions with Mom. She had a flip phone at one point, but she struggled with anything involving technology. I’d teach her, and she’d start to pick up something slowly, and by the next visit, it was back to square one.

    My mother-in-law is 96 and hasn’t recognized any of her children for at least five years. From out of the blue, she asked if her former caregiver could come to visit. My wife practically picked up her jaw off the floor. Debbie has not seen her mom in person for several months. (Her mom lives four hours away, but Debbie’s sister lives in the same city.) No one could visit my mother-in-law for several months, but everything changed when she became a Hospice patient. Now my sister-in-law visits each week and video chats with her mom. That is a bizarre experience in itself since my mother-in-law’s vision, and dementia issues make these “visits” difficult.

    I know you aren’t blogging much these days, and it makes me feel good for you whenever I see one of your posts. I hope you are feeling well and managing all the challenges that normal life (before Covid) gives. We haven’t seen our son since February. He just turned 28 and has had many challenges with his job as a college football coach. He’s been in quarantine twice when huge virus outbreaks have infected several kids/coaches on the team. One day after he took his new job in March, his school went into lockdown mode. The culture and attitude toward Covid seem much different there. It’s truly bizarre. High schools are still in session there, and he often is going to games on Friday nights for recruiting purposes. He wears a mask when he’s in the crowd, but hardly anyone else does. Is there any wonder why our country is in this mess?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Pete for such a thoughtful reply. I have to start with your son. I’m sorry that he happens to live in an area where masks are frowned upon. It’s a PUBLIC HEALTH issue, not one about the “rights” of an individual. I guess that argument circles back to some not believing it’s a public health crisis. And therefore, you and your wife have added worry over your son. He can’t “zoom” his job, so he is forced to put his health at risk. It IS a mess. For my mom, she is terrified of technology. She had a flip phone a few years ago, but we gave up with that. Yes, the residence is willing to set up (and be there) for a tablet virtual visit, but mom is also terrified she won’t be able to hear well and because she doesn’t understand it, she doesn’t want to try it. (Actually even a simple phone call can be challenging at times in terms of hearing.) But these are the facts right now and we do everything that we able to do. That’s interesting that visitation is allowed for hospice patients (I am sorry that she is there.) But it offers up some real family connection that may help your mother-in-law (at some level) and definitely give the family comfort and closure. And lastly, I really am doing well. I thought I had increased my post frequencies, haha (I had a recent two-parter with my dad’s 1948 journal) but it’s true that I’m also trying to complete older projects and working on the house some. I’ve been feeling very pro-active in getting things DONE! Thanks again for your comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I cannot imagine having through these Covid protocols when my Mom was in a nursing home. Her loneliness and confusion would have been extremely hard to live with. I’m so glad your Mom was ok after her fall and at least she somewhat understands the restrictions placed on her. I’m sure you miss her though…a year is a long time. Not to mention a rough year for you. Let’s pray that 2021 has more lights than tunnels. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You got it exactly – more lights than tunnels! I love that. And we can only work with what is placed in front of us, and do the best we can. Some days just feel better than others I guess. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

      Like

  4. Your mom has been such a trooper through all of this! Hope things relax more after the holidays so she can get out a bit and maybe you can come visit her. Glad you are feeling good after your major ordeal! Stay safe! Miss you! ❤️

    Like

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