My Quarantine Life: Week 40

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Jude sleeping on the work from home table on my day off

We all have ways of coping this year. For me, I have found comfort in reliving happy memories and remembering things from my childhood. This holiday season, I put my tree up and brought out all my holiday things after Thanksgiving.

Even though I have 5 Christmas DVDs, for some reason, this holiday season, I have been watching The Sound of Music practically every other day. At first I thought it was just because it played on the TV all the time at the holidays when I was little. Then I thought it was the happy memory of my very first live theatre event. One year as a Christmas present when I was a child, my father and step-mother took me to a dinner theatre to see The Sound of Music.

The past week or so I realize that this nostalgia is also connecting me to my grandparents. My grandparents came to the USA from Austria due to what was going on in World War Two. I remember listening to my grandmother tell stories of her childhood in Austria. They lived on a farm close to the river.

My grandmother has been a pillar throughout my childhood. While my childhood was tumultuous, my grandparents offered a sense of normalcy and sanity in the chaos. I was actually closer to my grandfather, who passed away about 18 years ago. In fact, I was the one who helped to look after him at the end and held his hand as he died, reading to him Psalm 23.

My grandmother developed dementia a few years ago. It turned her disposition mean. Combine the uncharacteristic meanness with the fact that she no longer remembers who I am, and it is just difficult, indeed impossible, to visit. I stopped visiting because it was too heart wrenching to try to explain to her who I was every visit.

As my grandmother’s dementia progressed, she became unsafe to live on her own. My mother took her in to care for her. At the time, my mother was still working full time as a nurse. However, my grandmother is one of those ones with dementia that likes to “run away” or wander off at all hours of the night and day. It got to the point where my grandmother would leave in the middle of the night and my mother was not getting any sleep trying to find her. She could not stay up with my grandmother all night long and continue to work her job as a nurse too.

About 5 years ago, my grandmother moved into an assisted living facility for the reason that she would have around the clock care. Staff were there on shifts to be able to watch her in the middle of the night and all through the day to be sure she didn’t wander off.

There were some episodes over the years when she was able to escape even the assisted living staff. They would often find her wandering thinking she was calling her young son in from the farm field for dinner.

My mother visited her almost every day at the assisted living facility until COVID started this spring and stopped the visits for the safety of the residents. Since the spring, my mother has only been able to have window visits with my grandmother or talk to her on the phone.

Without my mother’s visits, my grandmother rapidly declined to the point where the staff at the assisted living facility could no longer handle her. We arranged for my grandmother to transfer to a nursing home for dementia in November. However, the staff at the assisted living center decided in October that they “couldn’t deal with her anymore” and dropped her off at a nursing home 3 weeks early with only one small grocery bag of clothes.

My grandmother was so upset and confused. She thought she had been taken to a concentration camp. The nursing home was upset and filed complaints against the assisted living facility because they literally just dumped my grandmother on their doorstep unexpected. They were not expecting her to arrive for 3 more weeks because they did not have a bed or a room available for her. Everyone had to scramble. They had to bring in a special therapist and an interpreter to calm my grandmother down because she was absolutely convinced she had been taken to a World War Two German concentration camp. It took about a week for her to understand that she was in the USA safe and that she was not in a concentration camp.

The nursing home finally got her settled in the unit where she was supposed to be in November where she has the level of care she needs with her dementia. The past month when my mother window visits or talks to her on the phone, she says my grandmother is much happier in the nursing home than she was in the assisted living facility.

This weekend, we found out my grandmother tested positive for COVID-19. She is one of two family members I have left. From April to August of this year, I have already lost 6 friends and family members to the virus.

The nursing home is unable to send anyone to the hospital, because all of the hospitals here are full. The hospitals are even ending people with COVID-19 home. They are sending them home to die. Basically, the way the situation is right now, do not seek medical care for any reason. Just stay in your house and wait to die. Alone.

In addition to dementia, my grandmother has a pacemaker. This weekend she coded and for a minute, the nursing home staff thought she died. But she didn’t not yet. She “came back.” She is resting and the staff is trying their best to keep her comfortable.

I know that my grandmother is of an age where she is going to die sooner than later, but I don’t want her to die this way. I don’t want her to die alone. I want her to know she is loved. I am so thankful that the nursing home staff is sitting with her around the clock and making her comfortable. That’s all they can do. The hospitals are full, so she cannot go to the hospital for any advanced medical care. I’m sure that my grandmother is not the only person that the hospitals are turning away because they are too overwhelmed.

If you are a praying person, please pray for my grandmother. I realize that this may be her time. However, I do not want her to be in pain. I want her to know that she is very much loved. I don’t want her to die alone. 

This winter surge of the virus is much worse than the spring. In the spring, I was on the phone as one of my friends died from COVID. I would not wish this disease on anyone. Now, all the hospitals are full. Many more people are dying at home in pain and alone because our medical system is too overwhelmed to provide care.

I’m not sure if I am already in the stages of grieving yet or not, but what I feel right now is anger. Our hospitals are this overwhelmed, and yet everything is open. We need a shut down like we had in the spring. What I am learning from this moment is that money is more important than human life. I thought that New York State was doing a better job of containing the virus than the federal government was doing. At this point, I do not think I trust any elected official anymore. I just can’t believe that businesses are open and people are going about their day when our hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are turning away people who need care. People are dying simply because our government refuses to shut down our economy to save lives.

Please pray for my grandmother. My grandmother and my mom are the only two family members I have left. Yes, I have the cats as my family. But I don’t want to be alone in this world without humans. I know that my grandmother’s time is probably soon, but I don’t want her to go out this way. I want her to know she is loved. I don’t want her to be in pain. 

Our hospitals are full. Dear Jesus, please come soon.

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