Delta Developments

Ten days ago, I began to receive an unsettling drumbeat of emails from the senior residential community where my 91-year-old mother Ginny lives.

August 28th: “We now have 2 confirmed cases in Memory Care.”

August 29th: “we currently have two (2) positive cases in Memory Care and two (2) positive cases in Assisted Living.”

August 30th: “Currently we have (3) three residents in Memory Care that have tested positive and (3) three in Assisted Living that have tested positive.” 

August 31st: “Currently the positive cases are increasing in Memory Care.” (Note the absence of a number.)

When we moved Ginny to this new home in March, they were quite proud (and rightly so) that they had remained Covid-free since their grand opening in the summer of 2020. This achievement, however, proved to be unsustainable. The highly contagious Delta variant had somehow slipped inside their doors and began to infect their living space in a horribly rapid manner.

I thought I should include the dates and daily counts from the emails to illustrate how quickly Delta can escalate inside a “typical” lay-out of a senior facility.  And here’s the latest: at least 10 residents in Memory Care now have Covid. This information was not sent by email, but rather, a text sent to my sister. It’s a feeling of a wildfire jumping to and through the vulnerable.

How did this happen? Well, for one reason, we are now learning that being vaccinated does not guarantee long-term safety anymore as the experts are realizing that the vaccine efficacy fades over time. With seniors getting their shots first, that would place them in the January 2021 timeframe. Also, we don’t know if all the staff and visiting family members chose to get vaccinated in the first place. Add this to the particular virulency of Delta and it would be difficult to maintain a Covid-free status.

Presently, we are being told that the residents who did test positive are experiencing only cold-like symptoms which is encouraging. I would like to think that the symptoms are minor because all the residents were vaccinated, but that would mean that there was a breakthrough rate of over 70% in the Memory Care area which sounds impossible. I am happy to report that mom, who resides in Memory Care, remains one of the healthy ones.

But there is a concerning domino effect. Some staff are now out sick too, which means fewer hands doing more work, and I’m afraid that could lead to a whole different set of problems like checking on them less while they are in their rooms. Ginny had slipped off her bed about a month ago and bruised her chin; a resident’s status can change in a short 30 seconds.

Although they will not use the word “lockdown”, they’re strongly encouraging family not to visit at this time. If we choose to do so, we must enter through the front door, do a temperature check, sign in and then return outside and walk to the Memory Garden to meet our loved one at a visitation stand set up with plexiglass.

Personally, I was all ready to visit mom earlier in August for her birthday, but they had tightened protocol even then; perhaps because of that emerging vaccine research. Or maybe a staff member had tested positive. I don’t know. At that point, family members could still enter the building, but there was no meal-sharing and they needed to stay in their loved one’s room for the entire visit which would not have worked for us since Ginny’s room is quite small. Plus, I wanted to share a lunch and enjoy some cupcakes with her.

What I did do, is send a present I hope she liked. On previous visits, she refused to let us hang small, framed original watercolors on the walls which had been painted by her father. She was afraid of theft. So, I took a photograph of one watercolor I own and blew it up and framed it. She can either place it on her dresser or we will hang it during our next visit.  I mailed it with a note reassuring her that it is only a photograph and therefore “safe” to display. I liked its title: San Miquel: Pigeons at Daybreak. The promise of a brand-new day always feels optimistic.

San Miguel: Pigeons at Daybreak

There have been no further emails since August 31st. I interpret this as there is no good news yet. In their defense, the last email we did receive stated “We are working on hiring a cleaning crew and clinical to help us during this difficult time.  We are asking for everyone’s patience as we work through this.”

They are trying the best they can. Like thousands of concerned family members who have loved ones in senior homes, we are once again in a holding pattern, hoping for the best.


12 thoughts on “Delta Developments

  1. When I clicked LIKE on your post, I recognize that I am reckoning with the reality you portray and also with the way you express it. The hanging watercolor is such a nice touch. I believe “Pigeons at Daybreak” registers in your mother’s mind as something pleasant and beautiful.

    I’m glad to hear that your mother is one of the healthy ones. If she had her first shot in January, she may be eligible for a booster shot this month. My doctor has informed me that booster shots are recommended 8 months after the initial vaccination. I wonder if her facility (and her doctor) would accommodate such a request.

    As you may know, I have been down this road with my aunt and wrote several blog posts about her memory loss and the grace and good humor accompanying her decline. I can empathize with much of your story though we did not have to contend with fighting a virulent virus.

    Hugs to you, Melanie! ((( )))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marian. We recently switched from mom’s long-time doctor to a geriatrician who is directly affiliated with the facility so she knows first-hand what is happening there. I’m hoping plans are already underway to start boosters, but I’m definitely going to look into that further. Thank you for that. I do remember your story about your Aunt Ruth. Her mind was still quite strong at times with her descriptions and cleverness. Mom isn’t quite there, but I truly hope that what you say is true, that the photograph will register something pleasant and beautiful. Plus, she was very close to her dad and I’m hoping it is something that will help her feel his “presence” and comfort in these strange times. I plan to try and talk to her today about the photograph and how she is doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Carrying for the elderly is difficult even when things are going perfectly. Throw in a pandemic, and the problems increase tenfold. As you pointed out, one of my biggest concerns would be the health of the staff. Are there people waiting in the wings, or will this add more burden to already overworked employees? So scary!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete. Honestly, staff is very thin right now. I just learned that they had to cancel a pacemaker appointment for my mom because there wasn’t anyone to take her, not to mention that the doctor’s office wouldn’t want to see her anyway because of her Covid exposure. And that is another example of the domino effect. This should pass, but it is very stressful in the meantime. I guess that most of all, I am stunned that this could happen, at this level, after the vaccine roll-out.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Receiving adequate medical care was challenging pre-pandemic and has gotten more difficult, especially when considering how many beds are filled with Covid patients. Sometimes I give people too much credit—time and time again they show their ignorance and selfishness.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad your Mom is escaping this damn Delta variant. What’s scary is that after this variant will be another then another and on and on. Having been down this road without dealing with this flu is hard enough. We worry that their mental state or physical state can change on a dime. My Mom had a fall which led to a hospital stay which led to a nursing home all within a week! Adding Covid, Delta, Lambda, Mu etc to this situation translates to so much more stress for you and your family. I’m SO happy your health is excellent 🥰 and that you’re staying safe. We pray for the time you will eventually have with your Mom. The “picture of the picture” was a great idea! I never would have thought of that! I’m sure Ginny feels your love with such a thoughtful gift!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pam, you are absolutely right that things just happen (and quickly) even without Covid around. Based on an update from my sister, it is not a good situation right now with too many staff out. I’m just afraid what will slip though the cracks which might not have otherwise and how serious the particular issue is that slips. Just trying to keep the faith. Thank you for your comment about the gift and also for your prayers that we get to see her soon. I do plan on trying to talk to her today.

      Like

  4. Arg Melanie, what a holy mess of havoc this relentless disease is wreaking everywhere. I should think at the very least there should have been and should be mandatory requirement for anyone visiting these homes to be vaxxed, as a common health hazard courtesy. I’m sorry for your poor mom and the others who pay the high price for incompetence. 😦 Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your words and hugs Debby, I appreciate that. I *think* it is coming that the vaccine will be mandatory for staff who work in nursing homes, but visitors will remain optional. Sigh. Yes, poor mom didn’t get symptoms but instead, she needed multiple uncomfortable Covid tests. They tell us that the worst is behind us there and they hope to resume activities soon. I’m trying to keep the faith.

      Liked by 1 person

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