Why does he get to hug my mother-in-law when we can’t?

The Inconsistencies of Caregiving Under COVID-19

by Linda Chamberlain

It has been 10 weeks since we have been able to see and hug my mother-in-law (MIL).  Thank you for following along on our journey of caregiving during COVID-19. The struggles of her remembering why we cannot see her continue. One day she is angry because she feels like we have moved her to Florida, stuck her in a facility, and now never come to see her. The next day she is worried sick that her son has “The Virus” because she heard he was in the hospital. Sometimes she remembers he is making rounds at the hospital, sometimes she thinks he is sick in the hospital.

Most mornings, if I call her first I can gently reminder her about COVID-19 and bring her up to date with our state regulations and that we are not allowed to visit her at the Assisted Living. She will quickly remember and talk about how sad it is and she never imagined anything like this happening in her lifetime. She will often mention that she feels pretty good, but she cannot get her brain to work quite right and does not understand what is happening to her.  The fear that creates in one’s mind is difficult to imagine.

We are blessed my MIL lives in a facility that provides great care. And, she has private duty caregivers that keep her engaged in life, provide her individual quality care, and help us feel much better getting a daily report of how she is coping.  We have been able to arrange for a few balcony visits which we all enjoy.  Her first words are always the same, “I just want to touch and hug you!”

This week, Shaun, the activities director and one of her favorites at the facility, took her outside for the first time in 10 weeks. Even with her mask her on she looks so happy to be outside. However, quickly the questions begin.  Why does Shaun visit, and my own son will not visit me? Why is Shaun allowed to hug me and you are not? We try to explain Shaun works at the facility and he is allowed in, however, as family members we are not allowed in due to “The Virus.”

She says it does not make sense to her. She says we do not know where Shaun lives, we do not know if Shaun has been out to eat at a restaurant, we do not know if Shaun has been to the grocery store, we do not know if Shaun has anyone sick in his family. So, how do we know that Shaun is safe to visit with her and we are not? So as far as she is concerned, she says we are just making up reasons why we cannot come and see her. Otherwise, why are these other people allowed into the facility?

Frankly, these answers are difficult to come up with and explain at this point. I let her know I speak with the facility regularly to make suggestions of how they may want to arrange visits for families with their loved ones. One of the best ideas I have read about is from a facility in Louisiana that allows for visits outside, over six feet apart, and a see-through fence in between, allowing family on one side and the resident on the other. Even though we could still not touch it would give us time to sit together and really visit, not trying to holler from the ground floor up to her balcony. Another idea is by Thrive Senior Living. They have created a plexiglass protection wall, allowing the resident and guest to see each other on the same level and talk to one another on phones.

I applaud facilities everywhere for taking care of this vulnerable population and greatly appreciate the teams of caregivers that provide care day in and day out for our loved ones. This post is not intended to be critical. Coping with caregiving during COVID-19 continues to be a challenge and we are all adapting in a variety of ways.  The costs of trying and hoping we are keeping people safe must be considered by all businesses.

All senior facilities need to stop waiting for the government and come up with creative solutions to allow residents to see their loved ones, whether outside at a safe distance or through plexiglass or some other amazing solution out there. We cannot wait any longer to see the residents we love. This is too long to keep a vulnerable population behind closed doors, often limited to their room for days and weeks at a time. Many families have already lost their loved ones with no good-byes. The level of grief and remorse they are experiencing hurts me to think about it. We all need to be creative, find solutions, and take the next steps needed to see our loved ones.

Thank you for reading, it means a great deal to me.  If you have seen or read about a solution that is keeping our seniors safe in facilities and allowing them to safely visit with and see their loved ones please send it to me at lrc@easylivingfl.com.

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