I was lucky enough today to be one of the first people to have a visit with my Mom at her long-term care facility in Stoney Creek. My sister and I have power of attorney for her, and together we have been our Mom’s caregivers. Before COVID-19 hit and we were locked out, my sister and I would see Mom every day for years. My Mom is 91. She is confined to a wheelchair. She is legally blind and almost deaf. She has dementia and has no immediate memory retention – two minutes tops.
Prior to today my sister and I would get phone calls from the residence with my Mom and just lately video calls. My visit today went like this and pretty much as I expected. The same was experienced by the other two people visiting their parents. Our appointment time was at 10:00A.M. We had to arrive fifteen minutes early and stay in our vehicles. Five minutes before the time of our appointment we had to don our masks, go to the designated spots outside, sanitize our hands, have our temperatures taken, produce our certificates that we were COVID-19 free (as of the dates we had the tests and within the last two weeks) and answer the usual questions, while our parents were brought out in their wheelchairs.
We were then allowed into the patio area for our half hour visits. The meeting area was in the front patio area and the staff had arranged tables with patio umbrellas for shade. Construction was taking place across the street. Cars were going past, so background noise was very apparent.
Our parents are totally dependent. My mother didn’t know it was me. She hadn’t seen me for three months. Although she couldn’t see me, she would recognize my voice. She couldn’t hear me with the noise and the face mask on me. I had trouble hearing her because the other two people visiting their people were trying to have their parents hear them. I had gone into the visit knowing it would be hard. To be that close and it seemed like it was a mile away. We all left very sad at the quality of our visit and it must have been so upsetting for our parents.
What I don’t understand is that if we are COVID-19 free, passed all of the criteria set out for the visit, and are outdoors, why is it necessary for us to remain 6 feet away? My Mom is so dependent on everyone and has so many needs I am sure cannot be provided for her, but the one need that cannot be provided for is the physical touch of their COVID-19 free loved ones. The residence and their staff have done an amazing job of keeping the residence COVID-19 free and we are all grateful for that. But I know that they do not have the time to be aware of my Mom’s needs like I do. They don’t have the time to be constantly running to get this and that for her.
Now that we are able to have the one visit per week, we will now lose the video calls we would get from Mom. If the weather is not conducive to be able to have the outdoor visit, they said they will do window visits. These are useless to our family and then we won’t have visits or video calls. I know everyone is learning and flying by the seats of their pants on this journey, but my concern is for my visits with my Mom and my sister’s visits with Mom.
On the best day for Mom, she will not remember we were there as soon as we end a call or visit. I asked at my visit if we could use a face visor instead of the mask and was immediately told no. I ask why not? There have been comments made by health officials suggesting that the clear face visor is better than a mask, as it protects you and the other person. I know everything takes time. But time is not on my Mom’s side. She is at the end of her life, and every moment that we have with her are precious to our family.
My mother does not know anyone. Once the daily sundown hits for her at about 3:00 P.M. we are not allowed to be there to make her feel safe. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that I got to be across a table six feet away from her. It was better than having a window visit, which is something I will never do again. I understand that you can’t make everyone happy. But I need to push for more accessibility to my Mom.
At least I could see my Mom clearly. That was more than my Mom got.