Your Mother Has A Fever: The Nursing Home Call No One Wants To Receive

For people with elderly mentally-ill family members in long-term care facilities, Covid-19 can be extremely cruel.

Your Mother Has A Fever: The Nursing Home Call No One Wants To Receive
Photo by Nashua Volquez from Pexels

Covid-19 has cruelly hit me close to home. My partner’s mom just got the call no one wants to receive from anyone in a nursing home during this outbreak. In a nursing home in New York City of all places, the hottest spot with Covid-19 on the planet right now.

“Your mother has a fever.”

And just like that, life stops. Your breath stops, your chest hurts, and your eyes well with tears. You can’t believe it. You turn down the television to hear the caller’s words better. You ask questions; you get vague answers that just lead to more questions, and word soup responses equating to nothing.

How could Ms. Alberta possibly get the virus? She’s been in a lock down memory care unit for over a year. They halted visitations in mid-February. We’ve been calling and checking to make sure all was well, and everything was, until last week. We got a call from Ms. Alberta’s social worker.

“Your mother’s roommate has a fever of 100.1 and she’s being removed from her room onto another unit. Because we aren’t testing patients, your mother’s roommate is presumptive positive for Covid-19. We are isolating patients to prevent the spread of the virus.” We knew a call like this could come at anytime. We weren’t ready for the rest of the social worker’s notice.”

Breathe.

“Do you have final burial plans for your mother that I can place in her, file just in case we need them.” Full stop. Tears flow. We weren’t ready. We didn’t know what to say. Emotions take over. I slapped the desk with my hand as hard as I could. We’d done so much to get Ms. Alberta into that specialized long-term care facility. It was supposed to be safe. It was one of the best in the state.

There is no place safe when it comes to Covid-19.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. I slap the desk again. More tears. My stomach turns. My partner and I stare at each other as we continue to listen to the social worker on the phone. We have questions. There are so many questions. Thanks to trickery in public health laws on warning the public of communicable and infectious diseases, the mental health community’s lax duty to warn, HIPPA, and the CDC, we’ll barely get any answers. I try to speak. I can’t without completely breaking down. I just shake my head. I can’t speak.

The social worker provides a few additional crypted messages for us to read between the lines before hanging up. More stares. Our hearts sank. More tears. How could it end this way? All I could think of was how I hated so many things about the world in that moment.

Ms. Alberta was a Little G (G is slang for gangster). Gangster means she’s a tough ass old lady. She didn’t take shit most of her life; she was healthy, a very good steward of her money, educated (She earned a Master’s Degree in Education), intelligent, funny, pretty and a survivor. Miss Alberta got a G-Card from me just because she survived racist-ass Mobile, Alabama and Jim Crow. But Ms. Alberta also earned her G status because of her ability to live and somehow thrive despite her mental illness (Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and delusions) most of her life. Apparently these mental illnesses ran deep in her family. A few of her siblings suffered from the same mental health issues. It’s difficult to tell whether it was environment or genetic. She struggled to keep it together for years. In the end, mental illness won.

All I know is that she didn’t deserve to suffer like this. Alone. No one deserves to be ill and die alone, not when they have loved ones who can help care for them. But Covid-19, that bitch is having none of it.

How in the fuck did Ms. Alberta get Covid-19? It had to be from the nursing home staff because families haven’t been allowed to visit for almost two months. There is no telling what those people have to do to keep the ship afloat. Some caretakers probably work more than one health care job, so it’s highly possible they imported it in to the facility. We don’t know. We’ll never know. What we do know is the scariest, most horrific time in our lifetimes. This is scarier than 9/11 and is as devastating than a hurricane.

Dammit, Coronavirus and America’s fucked up, inadequate healthcare system are killing patients and caretakers alike. This shit is real now. Covid-19 is personal.

The social worker told us there would be limited info about Ms. Alberta going forward because they were short staffed due to staff who either quit or were sick themselves. She refused to tell us if anyone had died from Covid-19 who had previously worked with the residents on Ms. Alberta’s floor at the nursing home. The only news we could get was that there were other presumptive Covid-19 cases in the facility, but not on Ms. Alberta’s floor. We don’t believe it, and because we can’t get inside of the nursing home, we’ll never know.

We’re having to come to grips with all the things we’ll never know. It’s uncomfortable, and we’re no longer in control. I like knowing my territory, and this new terrain is uncharted.

The social worker also confirmed they aren’t testing old people, considering it a waste of resources. In America, when you’re no longer able to produce either stuff of income to tax, your shelf life is up, apparently. How could testing the woman who raised you be a drain on resources?

How could things end like this? Being sick and dying this way is so inhumane. It’s so unfair, so unnecessary.

What if Ms. Alberta gets ill, will they transport her to a hospital or will they just allow her to die on-site? Are they going to care for her the way her family would care for her? How many people have died at the facility? Is there an outbreak that we should be worried about? Can we come get our loved one? The answer to the last question is no. We’re not allowed to take Ms. Alberta back to her home to care for her. Nursing homes have become prisons for elderly loved ones placed in them. This is cruel. This pandemic and the way America has handled it is so cruel.

We are the shithole country we accuse others of being.

I got a headache. I wanted a drink. What do we do now? How can things for Ms. Alberta end like this? She’s a G, she’ll recover. She didn’t survive the great depression just to have a racist ass, stupid Donald Trump kill her. He’s allowing our friends grandparents, aunts, uncle, sisters, and mothers to die.

Now Ms. Alberta would have to be care for under Center’s for Disease Control Directives, basically the fast way to death, just how Donald Trump likes and expects. How could America tolerate such a cruel man who allowed this virus to ravage us in such a horrific manner? Add this to the list of things I ain’t never forgiving America for.

I’m never forgiving America for this.

Ms. Alberta is 87-years old and lived on her own until two years ago. Due to her declining mental health, we had to place her in a long-term memory care facility. The last few years have been rough trying to get guardianship and get her placed, but we did it. We thought we were keeping her safe. We thought we were protecting her. We placed her in one of the best facilities money could pay for, with a 24-hour round-the-clock care.

And now she may die.

This is a scary time to be alive right now. There is an invisible enemy lurking among us and we don’t know who is infected with it. Ms. Alberta’s caretakers could be forced to work ill because they are hourly wage workers and they need the money. They are some of the lowest-paid workers in the equation, but the most vital. Because health care facilities are already short staffed, caretakers may feel compelled to help take care of patients because they know they don’t have anyone else.

There is no winning here. Now we must consider funeral services. Because Ms. Alberta is a G, she pre-planned and pre-paid for her funeral years ago. She even wrote her obituary. Sadly, it’s likely there won’t even be a service to read her obituary at. Will it be safe for us to travel from Florida to New York to funeral plans? Will we be able to stream the service for people who are unable to attend? Are funeral homes in New York even safe? Will we drive, or will we fly? I don’t want to get airport cooties.

Can we postpone services until a later date? All of Ms. Alberta’s living siblings are considered high-risk because of their ages. My partner’s brother has pre-existing health conditions and won’t be able to attend. Everything that will need to be taken care of is on us. We are the guardians charged with taking care of things, including the unknown. We aren’t prepared. There is no closure. We getting an ending that will probably never end.

Now breathe. Hold your breath four seconds. Count to four. Release the breath for eight seconds. Repeat. It’s too much, it’s just too much. Tears flow again. I shake my head. It’s just not fair. Old people deserve better.

America failed to keep the least of us safe. I wonder if this is what it felt like for Native Americans on the Trail of Tears. I feel like some invisible person has come and snatched someone we loved out of our lives. I can’t believe racists elected the man that has made this nightmare our reality.

I’m trying to be thoughtful. I want to be understanding, but it’s become clear our government is trying to kill us. There are levels to Trump and the GOP’s shit, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We’re stuck here, and there is no end in sight. Republicans talked about death panels during the Affordable Care Act debates. Now we literally have death panels and no one has one damned word to say about it.

I am angry. The mentally ill deserve to be treated better. Especially when they’ve contributed so much to our society before their cognitive declines. America is so greedy, so selfish, and so unfair.

We’ve elected the dumbest, most evil got damned man in the whole-wide world ever to lead us during a crisis. We can’t defend ourselves, we can’t protect ourselves, and we can’t take care of our defenseless loved ones.

So we must wait, and we must pray. God, if you can hear me, can you please deliver us from this evil?

We’re home praying Ms. Alberta makes it through the storm. We pray healthcare workers will do right by her, she’s all they have right now. We pray Ms. Alberta’s caretakers will be okay too. No one should have to work under such dangerous conditions. We wait for daily calls on her progress. Today, there was no call. We tried to call to check on her. There was no answer.

We pace. We listen to music. I watch DJ D-Nice on Instagram live. I tweet. I read tweets. I drink. I try to write, I can’t concentrate. I walk to the mailbox for the fifth time today. The mail is already in the house. I sit outside and listen to the birds. I watch the squirrels. I cry. I get my shit together. I make dinner. I check on my partner to see if she’s okay. We check-in, we debrief. We stress eat snacks. We tinker. We sit in silence. We watch coronavirus news; we turn it off. It’s just too much. It’s all too much.

Right now they are giving Ms. Alberta Tylenol for her fever and they started an IV on her with antibiotics to help try to fight any potential infections. We don’t know how her body will react to the medications at her age. We don’t know what a high fever will do to her body either. We must now wait on the higher powers that be to work their magic.

We must wait to see if this storm too shall pass. We’ve been through so many. I hope the G in Ms. Alberta will allow her to remain standing after all is said and done.

This is so unfair. Covid-19 is so unfair. It’s not right.

It just ain’t right.

Marley K

*Author’s Note: I will be updating this post daily to provide progress reports on Ms. Alberta. She pays her own bill to be in the facility, which comes to $12,750 per month. We pay by check monthly, no Medicare or none of her other health insurances will pay for her specialized care. We don’t get any progress reports, no calls, or anything- unless she needs something of course. It only cost her $2,800 per month to live in her little NY co-op. Why does it cost so much to die?

We can’t get a return call on her progress since the initial call on 4/8/20 about her fever and “presumptive” Covid-19 diagnosis. Ms. Alberta pays cash monthly for her maintenance and care, and we can’t even get a call that tells us how she’s doing. When we call, no one answers the phone. When we leave messages, no one returns the calls. If you get Covid-19 and you go into the hospital, you’re alone and on your own.

On 4/09/2020, there was no call. On 4/10/2010, there was no call. On 4/11/20, there was no call. It’s April 12th and no one has called and we can’t get anyone to return our original call, nor will they extend an update. Today (4/12/20) we got an update on Ms. Alberta. She’s on day two with no fever, and she’s fussing because she doesn’t want an IV stuck in her hand. We feel so grateful to get the news.