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  • Writer's pictureKay Runyan

Needs and wants collide with COVID-19 reality

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

For those following my blog at, I want to discuss the uniquely tricky challenges posed by COVID-19 as they affected my brother's death in a nursing home.

When the pandemic broke out, scientists and doctors were faced with something completely new. People were sick and dying in unprecedented numbers. It was all was a horrible life and death guessing game. In the beginning, outbreaks were numerous in nursing homes, and to contain it, no visitors were allowed under any circumstances. Even the closest relatives were not permitted visitation other than looking through a window from outside. It was tough for either party to hear each other talk. Mostly they could just look at each other and try to read lips. Eventually, FaceTime was set up for those who had computer access.

This 'no visitation' policy took a toll on the patients and spouses alike. In my brother's case, his wife had come every day to have lunch with him for 3 months. Suddenly that stopped. I know the mental anguish my brother suffered was severe. He became depressed and would often have tears running down his cheeks. He began to decline, and then contracted the virus, and within two weeks, he was gone, alone with no family to comfort him.

Before he contracted the disease, I had spoken with several friends who were in the medical field and had worked much of their careers in units dealing with infectious disease. They suggested independently that perhaps the nursing home could put PPE on both my brother and his wife and let them visit outside 6 ft. apart. This was before his diagnosis. I was told that it couldn't be done because it wouldn't be per CDC Guidelines that did not allow 'end of life visitation.' That has now been changed, and a family member can be present. How I wish this could have been the case when my brother passed. I don't think his wife of 63 years will ever recover from the fact that she could not comfort him and hold his hand at the end.

Many families have had their loved ones taken under the above circumstances. It is probably one of the most painful experiences life has to offer. There did not seem to be any time for professionals to think or study the emotional and mental impact the guidelines would have on the elderly and their families. Now that they are re-thinking the Guidelines, perhaps the next step could be for the patient and spouse to wear PPE and meet - socially distanced, of course. This would seemingly protect medical personnel from contracting the disease, as well as patient and family.


Sometimes, our personal wants and needs won't fall on the same 'timeline' as medical knowledge. We can't 'make it happen.' Acceptance can be a challenging but necessary step.


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