Hearing My Dad Dying Because of COVID-19
COVID-19 has been a nightmare for over 180,000 American families that have lost loved ones. You’ve probably seen or heard stories of families that had final conversations with someone with COVID that was struggling through the last minutes or hours of their life in a hospital. It’s heartbreaking, to say the least.
I’m living through a version of that nightmare right now. My father is in a nursing home in Upstate New York, and I can’t see him. I haven’t been able to see him since March. I can only hear his voice, and I listen to him dying a slow death, getting weaker every time I speak with him.
My dad is 93 years old. He has dementia. His dementia isn’t bad enough that he doesn’t recognize my voice, know my name, and know I’m his son. He has problems with time, manifested in not knowing how many months its been since he had a visitor. Sometimes he thinks it’s been days, sometimes weeks.
He can barely hear me when we converse because he lost his hearing aids four months ago and can’t leave the facility to ride up to the V.A. Hospital to get fitted for new ones. Our phone calls are cut short by his frustration in not being able to hear our conversation very well.
Last week another staff member at the nursing home tested positive for COVID, meaning that the nursing home will not be allowing visitors for another 28 days per their policy. I understand it’s due to an abundance of caution, but it’s very disappointing to know that it will be that long before he can have physical contact with family members. It could be much longer if staff continues to test positive.
His days are long and uneventful. Based on what we know from him and the social worker who sees him regularly, his days are spent in isolation in his room. He leaves to take an occasional walk or to take a phone call at the nurse’s station when someone calls him. For over a month, he was restricted to his room 24-hours per day, and all residents had to wear a mask to protect their roommates. He cried when he told me about that.
I can hear my dad dying a slow death when I speak with him. It depresses me for days after we talk, knowing that he’s alone all day, every day and that he could die alone. I pray that won’t be the case, and that I can see him and be with him when he passes.
Who knows — he may live to be 100, but I know my dad very well, and I know he’s failing physically and emotionally because of the isolation. I don’t know the pain of someone who’s lost a loved one because of the virus, and I hope that I won’t be the son of a man who didn’t die directly from COVID, but because of the isolation it caused him to suffer.
Please pray for Vince. He’s my dad.