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Ohio Resident Moves Mom Out Of Nursing Home Due To COVID-19 Pandemic


Patty Neidert's mother, Leona May Hedrick, just had her 90th birthday.

PATTY NEIDERT: In her lifetime, she was an entrepreneur. She ran her own restaurant and was highly successful in all that she pretty much did, and she was a wonderful mom.

SIMON: Mrs. Hedrick moved into a nursing home not far from Patty's house in Norton, Ohio five years ago after she was diagnosed with dementia. Both of her daughters helped care for her there.

NEIDERT: We were able to visit mom before COVID pretty much every day. I was there helping the nursing home feed her. I would do a lot of things on a daily basis and also help the nursing home out.

SIMON: But the coronavirus upended all of that. In mid-March, administrators decided they had to isolate residents from each other to keep them safe. They also decided to keep loved ones from visiting. Patty Neidert wasn't worried at first.

NEIDERT: We thought it was just a temporary thing, and we'd be back visiting mom again. So we were fairly patient. And then I started calling them and asking them to bring mom to the dining hall window, which was really the only window we could visit from. On occasion, they would provide a phone for Mom, but that was not usual. Gradually, as the visits progressed, I noticed that mom was not looking up at me. So I knew something was happening. She was losing touch with reality. She began talking to herself instead of me. And we knew we'd have to do something.


NEIDERT: Mom was being left in her chair for long stretches of time. The phones at the nursing home would ring off the hook. I mean, we would ring hours and hours at a time - no answers. She was losing weight and was frequently ill with urinary tract infections. So we knew she wasn't getting proper care. And the aides said that they were by themselves. Sometimes, they did the entire building by themself. Nurses were gone. Administrators were taking over the floors.


NEIDERT: My sister and I - we're both power of attorneys for my mother. We probably spent four to six weeks deciding to take my mom out of the nursing home. When we did get her, I was so shocked at how much weight she had lost. And her mental status was so poor. And Mom drank from the time she got in the house, grabbed the water - at least two large glasses of water right away and drank for the rest of the evening and just absorbed everything. So we know she was massively dehydrated. We truly think she would have died in just a few days had we not gotten her out. I slept next to my mother in a chair for two nights in a row. I could tell she had been traumatized. She wouldn't actually go off to sleep until about 4:30 in the morning. And about the third day we had her at home, Mom said, is it OK if I stay here? Is it OK if I stay here? And we said, of course, Mom. You're not going back. I feel so bad we waited as long as we did.


SIMON: That's Patty Neidert of Norton, Ohio. The last couple of weeks have only given her family a brief respite. Mrs. Hedrick's UTI returned. She's now in the hospital. Her daughters are still trying to manage her care as best they can. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.