We were living contentedly in a new rhythm. I visited the Benton House at least twice a week, sometimes more. Ordinary days came and went. Holidays came and went. And we had our sad as well as hilarious moments.
And then on March 11, 2020, when I went to visit, the doors were locked, warning signs were everywhere and I was not allowed in.
Could any of us even imagine quarantine would go on as long as it did?
The Benton House was rigorous in safety protocols. And for that, I was grateful. As of this day, October 2020, there has not been a single resident to become ill from the coronavirus.
My mother and I would talk on the phone, Face Time sometimes, and the supervisor in the Beacon Community sent photos of their craft times and other activities.
The peace of mind I had concerning my mother’s safety far outweighed the discomfort of not being able to see her myself.
I did not, if you are wondering, go for window visits. She would have never understood why I did not come in, and I thought this would do more harm than good.
On July 3, I received a call that my mother was ill with a urinary tract infection and had been taken to the hospital. After numerous calls to the emergency room at that medical center, I finally reached someone who could give me some information.
And on July 4, I received permission to visit my mother, the first time I had seen her since March. Of course, I went through all the procedures of temperature check and wearing a mask to get to her room, but finally, I saw her.
I was shocked at the decline. Perhaps she had been declining gradually since March. Perhaps her gaunt appearance was the result of the UTI. I factored all those variables into my appraisal of her condition.
She was very glad to see me, but had not the slightest notion of how long it had been.
But at last, I was able to do something tangible for her. She was, as usual, quite cold and I went to the nurses’ station for blankets. I was also able to spend some time with her nurse and give her all relevant medical history.
Remember: because I had already been to a lawyer years before, I had all necessary documents and permissions to act as her guardian, and these papers had come with her from the Benton House. I do, by the way, have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order in place. Both she and my father had made their wishes clear on that years before.
After a visit of about an hour, my mother told me to “go home.” I think she was desperate to close her eyes and sleep.
She underwent some antibiotics and was transferred back to the Benton House the next day.
She had a difficult time bouncing back. And a few days later, the director and nursing supervisor called me in for a “family meeting.”
Their estimation was that my mother was declining and very close to needing skilled nursing care.
Please note: skilled nursing care, such as my mother received while in rehab, may or may not be provided by your loved one’s insurance. This is an aspect you should check on and add to your loved one’s policy if at all possible. We had a hefty bill for “skilled nursing” when she left rehab. Since our experience, I had added this expense to my own policy, knowing it is well worth it.
Transferring into skilled nursing care would mean an uprooting out of “her place,” as she had come to call her little half-suite, and away from the people she knew and loved, and who love her.
I wanted to avoid this at all costs.
Because I had capable advisors, I knew we could call in Community Hospice…that this is a service not only for end-of-life times in a hospital, but if a patient meets certain criteria, hospice will make weekly visits to them where they live, even in assisted living facilities.
We called Community Hospice and my mother was evaluated the next day. They agreed she met their criteria and admitted her to the program.
Since then a nurse and case manager have come every week to visit her. A chaplain will be available when COVID restrictions are lifted.
And beyond that, all three of them have called me to see “how I am.”
This was another invaluable lesson: the availability of hospice to families in our situation, facing ongoing decline and increased care.
So now, there is another set of eyes on my mother and I am getting weekly updates on her condition. Hospice also took over—under the auspices of Medicare—some prescription expenses and items such as Depends.
Everyone ever involved with hospice services, I am told, says the same thing: “I wish I’d called sooner.”
Their estimation is: “She is in good shape for the shape she’s in.”
And at present, she is holding steady where she is and enjoying the company and comfort of her home, where she has lived for the last two years.