Posted by Curt on 19 June, 2020 at 2:58 pm. 5 comments already!


“Don’t worry,” the mob said, “Grandma is safer than ever.”

Except my grandmother wasn’t. She died “recovering” in a skilled nursing facility a week-and-a-half after a fall at home broke her neck. From walking and talking, my 88-year-old grandmother deteriorated into a catatonic state in quarantine. Her family was instructed to socially distance for her health and safety.

As my home state of Pennsylvania reopens under Gov. Tom Wolf’s phasing process, visitation restrictions in senior living facilities remain in effect for 28 additional days following a county’s entrance to the “Green Phase.”

“The [care] provider should be creative in ways that assist the individual to remain in contact with family and friends and feel comfortable with the method of communication,” the state’s Department of Human Services noted in a June press release.

DHS recommended a few creative ways the elderly can communicate with their loved ones while adhering to government social distancing guidelines. Among these suggestions were “window interactions,” “glass door viewings,” using virtual assistance such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, and video calls through FaceTime, Zoom meetings, Skype, and Facebook Messenger.

Many if not most senior citizens don’t know how to video chat. My grandmother hated technology. She didn’t understand “gizmos” or “gadgets” or Google Meet. In the social media and social distancing age when electronic communication is vital, this disconnect created a generation gap that plunged — if not pushed — my grandmother’s descent.

“Why didn’t you come see me?” my grandmother cried the first night, alone.

The nurses told me that a patient’s recovery is dependent on his or her family’s supporting presence. In my grandmother’s skilled nursing ward, there was one phone for the 17 residents. The one weekend she was there, family members of other occupants hogged the landline.

And while medical discussions can occur over the phone, it erases much of the human aspect. Conversations about your loved one’s long-term care should be in person and not taken lightly. For many in hospice, these are end-of-the-life decisions. There has to be a middle ground between no visitation and open doors. I know some would go to extreme lengths, even wearing hazmat suits if they had to.

Perhaps the elderly are forgotten afterthoughts, pushed to the periphery of society because we believe they no longer contribute to the social fabric — they’re “non-essential.” Or perhaps it’s just easier for everyone to go about business as usual, convincing ourselves that we did our duty as sons and daughters, then wiping our hands clean.

But as most senior citizens are at the end of their lives in lockdown, isn’t that a majority of Americans’ worst fear — dying alone?

We’re supposed to honor thy mother and father. We were taught and raised to respect our elders. But the due diligence of the past is replaced by the evolved health care of the present — for comfort and convenience.

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