My mother is in quarantine. She is 92. No, she doesn’t have the virus. She moved to an assisted living facility in Roseville after my father died. My older sister is her main caretaker now. When she lived in Calaveras County, that was more my role, but she is older now and more needy.
When COVID-19 first breached our shores, an assisted living facility in Washington had a huge infection surge. My mother’s facility immediately started restricting who could visit and taking precautions in the facility. Eventually they restricted all visits unless it was a life-or-death situation.
Elderly are already walking a tightrope to stay healthy. It doesn’t take much for something to shake them off that tightrope. My grandmother developed shingles at the age of 93. It sapped her of strength and stressed her out. Shingles didn’t kill her, but it shook her tightrope and ultimately, she died of congestive heart failure.
My mother needs to visit a retinal specialist because of some issues with one of her eyes. The facility will bring her to the front door. Nobody goes inside for any reason. After the visit, my mother is quarantined in her room for 14 days. And every visit to the doctor starts the clock again.
This whole quarantine thing is difficult to explain to elderly people. Masks. Washing your hands. Social distancing. My sister gives us a report on our family Facebook page. There is a picture of my mom, with a mask and wearing big dark sunglasses.
My sister’s report: “She went to the retinal specialist yesterday. Put a mask on her before we entered the building, which she wasn’t exactly thrilled in wearing. Before that, when I first got her in the car, she wiped her nose with her hand, coughed into her hand, and probably touched her face and eyes at least 10 times before we got to Kaiser. Also, hand sanitizer all around.”
My mother is supposed to be isolated in her room because she left the facility. The report from my sister is that they found her out in the hall several times and she had to be escorted back to her room.
I called her on the phone, which is an iffy thing since she has problems hearing on the phone. I often have to repeat what I say. But she asked repeatedly, “Where is everyone? It’s like there is nobody here.” So, I explained to her about how she has to be quarantined in her room for 14 days. And every time she leaves the facility, it starts the clock again.
She doesn’t understand. Not really. My sister took her to another appointment to the same doctor to see if the eye drops were helping. He asked how her eye was doing. She was more upset about wearing the mask than her eye. She said she “wasn’t very happy about it.” My sister realized she was talking about the mask, not her eye, and informed the doctor. Things are better so the next appointment is in a month.
My sister took her to the Dairy Queen and got her an Oreo Blizzard which considerably improved her mood. And while she had my mom, my sister FaceTimed with my older brother, so my mom could visit with him and at least see him.
My mom can’t do any of that on her own. She can’t even figure out the telephone anymore except to answer it. There is no sense leaving a message if she doesn’t answer. She can’t remember how to play the message back.
So there my mom is in her little room. Stranded. Confused. Isolated. My sister can’t visit her. We can’t visit her. She gets “visits” on the phone and can’t hear half of what you say. And right now, I can’t tell you the next time I will see her. At least she doesn’t have to worry about toilet paper.
Don Urbanus is a Burson business owner. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.