How COVID Affected My Life in 2020

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Title

How COVID Affected My Life in 2020

Creator

Alana Grover

Description

A wife's heartfelt account of her husband being in and passing in a nursing home during COVID. She also discusses the aftermath of this, how different holidays are, and what she has done to get through it.

Date Created

February 1, 2021

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Text

I made the difficult decision in January to let hospice admit my husband to a nursing home before one of us got injured. I was devastated to make this move. I visited every day until Friday March 13th. Two days later the nursing home closed the facility to visitors to prevent the spread of Covid. I tried calling frequently but often could not get through. When I did make contact he was often too weak to hold the phone and would just put it down, so calls did not go well. April 12th was our 40th anniversary. I could only call him. Then the nursing home started scheduling Zoom visits. The first one was a disaster, but subsequent visits went better with a staff member present. It was less than ideal but at least I could see how he looked. My family came for porch visits. Grocery shopping was a frightening experience. I ruined many clothes as we were washing everything with bleach, including the groceries. Terms like” face coverings” and “social distancing” became familiar. I spent Memorial Day home alone. Little did we know that this was going to be the first of many holidays like we had never seen before. Then the good news came that I could visit him through the front door by phone. He never stopped asking me when he was coming home. It broke my heart. I don’t think he ever fully understood why we stopped visiting. We started to see him decline. He became much less communicative. He started losing weight.I truly believe isolation from family, because of Covid, contributed to his decline. Then the home started monthly car parades. He would be outside with the other residents and staff and appeared to enjoy this. However, we were not allowed to stop and visit even with being outside and masked. I understand the nursing home had an obligation to protect its residents, but it didn’t make it any easier. We had door visits on July 9th, and 20th. He seemed to be declining so they allowed me to visit on July 30th gloved, gowned and masked. It was the first time I could talk with him in private and touch him. On August 4th they started outdoor visits supervised by staff. On August 12 I was allowed to bring him a lobster roll, his favorite food, and we ate together for the first time in over 5 months. Little did I know it would be our last meal together but I am thankful we had that. I saw him once more on the 15th. On the 22nd I visited. He had been suffering with hiccups for a week and it weakened him terribly. I had just gone to bed that night when I got a call from the night nurse that he was actively dying. They allowed his son and me to stay at his side all night, of course masked, gowned and gloved. He passed in the morning. I am very thankful that I was allowed to be there with him til the end, but I can’t help feel that Covid stole our last few months with him and made him sad and confused about why his family seemed to abandon him.

Then came the uncertainty of planning a graveside service. Would people come? Would they wear masks and stay 6 ft. apart? The funeral home made it clear this was expected. Do we try to feed people afterward? How much food? Again, will people come? They did, and most were wearing masks. Some hugged me and even though I knew it wasn’t the best idea, I needed that. I don’t know of anyone becoming ill.

Then I started the next phase of my life alone: Grieving in the socially distanced pandemic. My family was wonderful at protecting me and keeping in touch. We were able to visit outside quite often. We took walks, hiked in new places and ate outside. I had planned to have my stepson and his family over to a memorial dinner on what would have been his father’s birthday in October but that had to be cancelled due to a possible Covid exposure. I spent it alone. Then came my birthday in November. Fortunately, we had a mild winter and again managed a porch visit in small groups. Then we all pondered what to do about Thanksgiving. We collectively decided that we would forego a family gathering this year, hoping to all be well and around next year. My son was going to be alone so we decided the two of us would be together at the ends of my dining room table, masked when not eating. I made it through another first. Then comes the big one: Christmas. The kids wondering, “What would we do to balance being together with Mom, her first year as a widow, and protecting her in the midst of a pandemic killing thousands? Well we managed a plan that again the weather allowed. Can you imagine having Christmas eve day outdoors in Maine? A new gas fire pit for the deck, from my children, helped make this possible. Another small group came for a short visit inside, masked and distanced. Christmas morning my kids surprised me with a stocking they had filled and hidden in my garage to open with them on Zoom! I did spend the day alone and in a way it was probably good to be able to grieve alone instead of trying to put on a happy face when I really didn’t feel very happy.

We all seemed to think getting out of 2020 would be such a relief but changing the calendar did nothing to improve the pandemic. We elderly were so isolated. I only got out to pick up the essentials, or go to an occasional appointment. My saving grace was again the mild winter. At 75 I was fortunate to be in good health. I walked outdoors nearly every day, either alone or with family members. Once or twice a week I went with walking groups to hike in the woods on local trails or in neighboring towns. Being outside is good for the soul. I am lonesome at times, but look forward to getting the Covid vaccine soon. Hopefully summer will bring back social activities and most of all hugs from our loved ones.

Alana Grover
Otisfield, Maine
February 1, 2021

Citation

Alana Grover, “How COVID Affected My Life in 2020,” Western Maine Foothills Community Archive, accessed March 6, 2021, https://westernmainefoothills.omeka.net/items/show/32.

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