Nursing, retirement homes adapt for a socially distant Mother’s Day

Nursing, retirement homes adapt for a socially distant Mother's Day

NEWTON, Mass. — Not only are they ‘in this together’ at Massachusetts nursing homes -- but you might say patients and staff members are going through the COVID-19 pandemic together, alone.

Since March, the state has banned visits by family members, fearing introduction of the virus into facilities housing what is clearly the most vulnerable population to the novel coronavirus.

The Department of Public Health reports that most of the nearly 5,000 deaths so far in Massachusetts have been in residents 80 or older, with 82 being the average age of fatal infection.

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Mother’s Day is traditionally a high-traffic time at nursing homes, with many families taking loved ones out for dinner or lunch. With residents not allowed to leave, and families not allowed inside, CareOne, which operates 15 long-term care facilities in the state, set up ‘window visits’ between moms and their families.

In Newton, a lobby window was opened a crack. That was enough for Michelle Daniels to converse with her 95-year-old Mom, Philomena Langley.

“It’s been tough,” Daniels said. “You know I haven’t been able to see or talk to her because she wears hearing aids and ones’s broken and in the shop. So she can’t hear.”

Daniels originally planned to just wave to her mom, who lives on an upper floor.

Sandi Glidden’s 75-year-old mom is at the Newton facility as a rehab patient after getting into a car accident last month. She hit a UPS truck on Route 9, breaking her back and several ribs, Glidden said.

“It is what it is, right? Everybody’s going through something,” Glidden said. “Everybody is going through it. I’m not the only one. It’s Mother’s Day for millions of women.”

Emily Vasquez, administrator for CareOne in Newton, said the facility also has two wings solely dedicated to COVID-19 patients discharged from the hospital and hopefully on the way to recovery. Though, not all of them make it.

They too were getting visits outside another part of the building.

While any day isolated from family is tough for nursing home residents, Mother's Day is especially difficult.

“It’s a sad day for us because most of the patients would love to have families visit,” said Oliver Tayu, RN, Nursing Supervisor at CareOne, Newton.

Tayu said since the ban on visitors began, nurses have had to take on both the role of family members -- and the role of social workers, as they help residents cope with loneliness and depression.

But even in those roles, staffers are physically hampered as human beings -- because they have to wear personal protective equipment.

“It’s frustrating to them because they can’t even see our faces because we’re all masked up," said Tayu. "We have the mask, we have the face shield.”

When her mom is released from CareOne, Glidden plans to use whatever time off she has left from work to become her caregiver.

When it was time to leave, Glidden said, “Happy Mother’s Day” to the shadow behind the glass. “I love you. I love you with all my heart.”

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