The last couple of months, we have found ourselves in an alien environment, one where we can’t leave our homes and have nowhere to go anyway, because the entire world has shut down. It’s unprecedented, and therefore, confusing.
Is there one right way to handle a pandemic? President Trump stood behind the Constitution, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This gave the freedom to governors to make decisions regarding their individual states, including quarantine measures, lockdowns, and the shutdowns of businesses.
We’ve all experienced the pain of these decisions, and we all have widely disparate views of them. I’ve remained mostly indecisive about the best course of action, and any opinions I’ve had have changed many times since this whole thing started. But there is one area in which I am firmly frustrated, and that regards the refusal to allow loved ones to be with our loneliest.
My dad, who is 85 and well into Alzheimer’s, had a seizure that led to a fall. When the doctors saw how advanced he was in the disease, they encouraged my mother to move him to a care facility. She fought it. My parents met when my mom was 14 and they’ve been married 64 years. They’ve never been apart and my mom has never lived alone. She cared for my dad as his disease progressed and felt that she was letting herself and my dad down by “giving up” and admitting him to a home. It took a lot of conversations and the last fall to convince my mom it was time.
A devastating decision in any circumstance, but imagine this: Mom can’t tell dad where he’s going, and when they arrive, he is quickly ushered down the hall. She stands there, melting into a pool of tears as she watches him walk away, not knowing when she will see him again.
When desperation led my mom to do just that, she returned to her empty house and agonized, heart broken from loneliness. She despaired that my dad was worse off, bewildered by his change of circumstance with, in her words, “no one there who loves him.” So I ignored all recommendations and got on a plane to be with her because honestly, how could I not? It would have been inhumane for me to let her suffer alone. To me, risking a virus takes a back seat to love, comfort, and another’s wrenching loneliness.
And that’s what infuriates me so about the current restrictions on nursing homes and the like. My father – and everyone else in any type of facility – is suffering alone. He’s in a strange place. He’s confused. He doesn’t understand why he can’t see my mom. And my question is, why can’t he?? Why can’t one designated loved one be given permission to visit, hug, and hold their very confused and hurting spouse, father, or grandmother?
Why am I allowed to go to a movie or a restaurant, and my mom can’t visit my dad and alleviate his feelings of abandonment? Why can’t she put on a mask and gloves and sit outside with him? There’s just no rhyme or reason, it seems, to what is allowed and what is not.
I’m in Florida as I’m writing this article. The beaches are full, people are dining out, and I’d never know there was a pandemic. But in this exact same state, my mom had to stand outside a window of a care facility on her 64th wedding anniversary, trying desperately to share a moment with her lifelong partner. He didn’t understand why he could see her but not touch her. He didn’t understand why she couldn’t come inside to hug and kiss him. And quite frankly, neither can I.
Yesterday, Mom called crying. Dad had taken another fall and had to be life-flighted to a hospital two hours away. When she got the call, the first words she heard were, “You can’t come to the hospital, so please don’t make the drive.” My father is mentally incapacitated. He cannot understand anything the doctor is telling him nor advocate for himself in any way. My mother could do that – ask the questions, speak about conditions he can no longer remember. But she’s not allowed in.
This hospital boasts zero cases of Covid-19. Many would argue that this means they’re doing things right. But are they?
I’m not a scientist, and I’m the first to admit that my opinion in this matter isn’t based on science. But sometimes, decisions need to be based not on science, but on the heart. Sometimes it’s better to be humane than right.