She died alone

She was alone in her room in the nursing home.  For the past two months, she had been receiving hospice care for heart failure and a chronic lung disease.  Several years before, her family had made the decision to transfer her to the nursing home as her health care needs became unmanageable.  As a mother, grandmother, and sister, she had plenty of visitors — often several times a week and always on Sunday.  She seemed happy.  The staff at the nursing home were very attentive, and the facility itself was clean, comfortable, even homey.

Then COVID-19 hit in March, and everything changed for this family: no visitations were allowed, no meals could be shared, no hugs or kisses allowed, no one to get closer than two arms' length away.  The escalation from resident to hospice care occurred soon after the pandemic began lurking around the facility.  The family believed that her deterioration could be correlated to the withdrawal of human touch from her loved ones.

She passed away in May with no family at her bedside, no one to hold her hand, no friend or relative to whisper something lovingly in her ear.  While she died peacefully, she left this world utterly alone.  It didn't have to be this way.

The circumstances of this story have been repeated thousands of times across the country and the world.  Almost 50% of all COVID-19 deaths in this country have occurred in nursing homes.  Most deaths in nursing homes, however, are not due to COVID-19.  There are countless other causes of death.  Yet all visitations have been banned for everyone in a U.S. nursing home.  How does it make any sense to condemn an entire population of every nursing home in America to loneliness?  Could such an edict do more harm than good?

Isolation is deadly — we have seen the highest suicide rates since the Great Depression.  More children have died from suicide than COVID-19.  The shutdown of houses of worship, schools, and businesses has had devastating consequences.  It may take us years to recover from this foolish decision.

Consider this:

• If we can fly cross county safely with masks on, why can't we be with a loved one during their final days utilizing the same precautions?  We have rapid COVID-19 testing where results are available within an hour.  Couldn't this be employed by nursing homes to ensure that visitors are negative for the coronavirus?

• If we can shop safely at Costco with masks on, why can't we worship at a church, synagogue, or mosque just as safely?  Surely being able to pray is just as important as finding large-quantity discounts?

• If we can safely wait in line to buy a bottle of liquor or a six-pack of beer, why can't we just as safely wait in line to vote on Election Day?  Wouldn't all of us consider voting equally important to getting a buzz on?

• Why can't children attend school in person, but adults can attend a rally of any size they like?  Children are very low-risk for contracting COVID-19.  Note that as of August 18, 2020, only one child under the age of 18 has died of COVID-19 in the state of California, yet many more have died of influenza.  We do not routinely close schools due to an outbreak of influenza, yet we are closing them all over the country because of the threat of this virus.  Our children are unnecessarily suffering from being out of school.  I wish the fact that child abuse reporting is down 25% were the result of a less violent world.  Unfortunately, we aren't that lucky.  We have more abuse, only less reporting.

Looking at these instances, the conclusion is clear: COVID-19 is no longer a health care crisis; it is a crisis of the soul of America. 

There is hope that a growing number of Americans are waking up to the reality that our American way of life is in jeopardy.

Like generations before us who waged war to protect America, we are being called upon to fight for the country we love.  Although we are not at war, our fight is equally important and difficult.

Fight by questioning everything.  Fight by supporting candidates for local office (school board and city council) who understand what is at stake.  Fight by running for office yourself.  Fight by peacefully protesting.  Fight by writing letters to the editor or posting on a social media site.


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