The Test Was Negative, but COVID is Killing My Grandmother

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I want to start this post by saying that I understand that COVID-19 is serious. I understand that health and safety are important. I understand that leaders have big decisions to make with a small amount of reliable information. So, as long as we are clear on all of that, you can continue reading.

A Special Woman

My mom’s mom, my “Grandma”, has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. She wasn’t a grandparent we saw occasionally on holidays; she was a mainstay in the big and small moments of our lives. Grandma is feisty, stubborn, and opinionated. She is also caring, compassionate, and kind. She amazed us all with her strength after my grandfather passed away. While she was indescribably sad about losing her husband of over sixty years, her faith and extroverted nature served her well as she did not allow herself to lose her will to live a full and purposeful life.

Grandma lived on her own for a while after my Papa died, but she did feel lonely. So, with the support of our whole family, she moved out of her house and into an independent living facility to ease some of the burden of being on her own. She thrived in her new home. She loved meeting and getting to know the staff and other residents. She was still able to leave as she pleased to go out to eat or get groceries, but she had someone to keep up with her medications and she did not have to worry about daily tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning.

Changing Circumstances 

Enter COVID-19. I’m not going to act like my grandmother has never been confused before, because that would be a lie. But, the havoc wreaked on her mind by being isolated during a global pandemic is nothing short of devastating. In the span of four months she went from being totally clear in her thoughts to being unable to understand where she was, why she was there, and why her husband and mother weren’t there with her.

I completely understand the need to keep our most vulnerable safe from the novel coronavirus. However, I would posit that there may be as many if not more elderly people suffering and even dying due to isolation than because of the virus itself. The regulations my grandmother is living under are not far above a prison. And that is because the facility where she resides is “following CDC protocol.” She is expected to eat alone, wear a mask all the time, stay indoors, have no visitors, and not even visit her friends in the same facility (although, being a rebel, she does break this rule from time to time.)

The closest we can get to a visit, talking through a window.

An Important Question 

By no means am I saying that we should lift all regulations, but I do think there is a big question that needs to be asked. At what point does quality of life need to take priority over quantity of years? So many of our elderly cannot speak for themselves, and they are suffering right now!! Do I want my grandmother to contract COVID-19? Absolutely not! I was terrified when she had to be tested on a recent trip to the emergency room (after which she was mandated to 14 days of what is essentially solitary confinement). But, after our sixth phone call in a 20-minute span recently, I did seriously question if the intensity of these steps is worth it. She is confused. She is concerned. And our hands are tied. We, her family, are left to watch her grapple with this alone.

During the hospital visit I mentioned, my grandma was tested and checked for everything. She had CT scans, blood tests, and the aforementioned COVID test. Every single thing came back negative, including COVID. There is little physically wrong with her except acid reflux and restless leg syndrome. Alzheimer’s and dementia have been considered but both typically come on much more gradually than my grandmother’s current issues. All we can deduce is that she is suffering from delirium brought on by her current circumstances.

Love, Regardless of Distance

I don’t pretend to know the perfect solution to this scenario, but there is clearly a problem. And, if you are struggling as you watch an elderly friend or family member struggle, know that you are not alone ♥️

I would give so much to hug her right now.

I also strongly encourage you to reach out to a local nursing home and ask if there is a way you can love their residents from a distance. Ask to send cards, paint windows, send flowers or treats, whatever you are allowed to do that could brighten the day of someone who is experiencing “social distancing” in the most extreme way.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Yes. Many negative social issues are arising from the distancing measures. I understand the need for a higher level of germ awareness and improved cleanliness, but we are often failing on compassion and common sense when we go to extremes.
    I realize taking on the care of your grandmother would be challenging, but have you considered the beautiful memories and strengthened family bond her physical presence would bring to your home or another family member’s home?

    • Hi Jen!
      Thanks so much for reading! These are certainly challenging times for so many people. Yes, my entire family has certainly evaluated and prayed about this possibility. Unfortunately, at this point it is not feasible but that could always change.

  2. This is heartbreaking. I am so sorry! I am a nurse and I worked in a long term care/rehab facility for 8 years. Facilities can have such a diverse population it’s so hard to have a blanket protocol that is best for everyone. My heart goes out to your family.

  3. I also agree with this article. My mother who had vascular dementia for many years and over the last year she was put into a nursing facility full time. So my brother and I were not able to see her except through her window from March 11 (one day after her 71st birthday) until around May 17 for a compassionate visit because she had declined so much. Our mom was the center of our worlds as well and my children. Well that night in May she was sent out to the hospital for her labs being critical and from there she was diagnosed with a UTI as well as getting aspiration pneumonia and then some time during the stay she had another stroke in the cerebellum which caused her to no longer able to talk or eat/swallow well. We decided to have her sent back to the nursing home on hospice where we could then spend time with her. She lasted 16 days without food or drink except for the small amounts of sponge drinks. So I truly believe that COVID-19 has killed many of our elderly because of the severe isolations.

    • Angela, I am so so sorry for the pain you have experienced. I am glad you were able to be with your mother in her final days but am so sorry for the days you had to miss ♥️

  4. Thank you for writing the words we’re feeling. My 95 year old father had been living in an independent living facility and thrived after my mom passed away, he’s sharp and loved the socialization and care given by the wonderful staff. Enter Covid-19 and the nightmare began in March . No visitors except through a closed window, due to his loneliness he declined each time we saw him in May he fell and broke his hip which meant surgery and one family member being with him. He returned to rehab under the 14 day quarantine then was moved to a room to continue recovering. Finally he was approved to return to his apartment which meant another 14 day quarantine and on day 15 he was diagnosed with pneumonia and returned to the hospital for another 2 weeks of quarantine and then returned to the nursing home for rehab where he had another 14 day quarantine, throughout this nightmare he has had multiple negative Covid tests. Two weeks ago he returned to another room to recover and was about to be able to return to his assisted living when he fell in the night going to the bathroom, because he’s “confused” after being in countless rooms each with a different layout . Now he is back to more rehab…. all these months with no hugs or love except through a window. These individuals are locked up like criminals and unless you’ve experienced it personally there is no way to understand. The staff has tried to fill in and are dedicated at his facility and we can’t thank them enough. I plead with key decision makers to reconsider the rules, there are ways to protect and still give the elderly a better quality of life .

    • Kendra, thank you so much for reading. I am so so sorry for what you are going through, it is incredibly similar to my grandmother’s situation (she has also fallen multiple times when she has changed rooms). I am praying that a solution can be found that can protect residents without forcing isolation upon them.

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