Monday, July 13, 2020

Mom’s fate is out of our hands

| April 19, 2020 1:00 AM

I got a text from my brother Rodney early Friday morning, with a screenshot of the notification he’d just received from the nursing home in Minnesota where my 91-year-old mother is a resident. It was what we feared would happen: one of the residents there had tested positive for COVID-19 that morning.

The staff let us know the affected resident had been removed from the building (i.e. probably was hospitalized).

“We are taking all necessary precautions for the safety of our residents and staff,” the memo notes. “More information to come...”

It wasn’t the news I wanted at the onset of my busiest day of the work week, when the content of not only the Saturday edition of the Inter Lake but also the Sunday and Monday editions must be tended to. But there’s never a good time for the fallout of a pandemic.

We had been notified about two weeks ago that a health-care worker who had been at the center to administer care had been exposed to the virus, so the possibility of an outbreak existed. Then a few days ago, one of the nursing home administrators called Rod to ask him point-blank what action the facility should take if Mom were to contract the virus. Do we want her hospitalized? Do we want her simply kept comfortable in her own bed at the nursing home?

Mom has a Do Not Resuscitate directive, but the questions nevertheless were alarming for me and my brothers. There was the worst-case scenario, laid out before us.

I think it was sometime in late February when the nursing home went on lockdown because of influenza. Then, about a month ago Mom was diagnosed with pneumonia and was moved to a different floor where respiratory patients were being put, and, we speculated, to free up other parts of the facility if more COVID beds were needed at some point.

Our tough-as-nails mother recovered from pneumonia — at least we think she did. No one has been able to visit for months and no one from the nursing home ever called to affirm her recovery. We simply surmised this by talking on the phone to her. She sounded OK. If there is any upside to her dementia, it’s that she is oblivious to this pandemic and seems calm and at peace.

Given her age and this new set of circumstances, my siblings and I have had several conversations about what we would do if Mom were to pass away while this virus is still working its way through the country. Would I hop on Amtrak to attend a funeral? Would we even be able to hold a funeral? Could my oldest brother fly from the East Coast, where he’s in a COVID hot zone?

This is what I’m thinking about today in between editing stories and running a newsroom from home, a challenging feat in and of itself. It is stressful, so I compartmentalize my thing at a time.

And I pray with all my might.

I’d like to be able to see Mom and hug her before she’s no longer with us. I’d like to hold her hand and comfort her, and hear her laugh. I pray this is one request the Lord might answer in my favor.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or