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'It Breaks My Heart And My Spirit:' Ohio Woman On Returning Her Mom To Nursing Home

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Americans have told us a lot about how they've had to live for most of this year, how the coronavirus has affected their work, lives and families. Back in June, Patty Neidert of Akron, Ohio, told us about her mother, Leona May Hedrick, who had just turned 90.

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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 has dementia. When the pandemic began, she was living in a nursing home not far from Akron. Because of COVID restrictions, her daughters could only have visits with her through a glass. After a few weeks, the sisters became worried about their mother's health and quality of care. They decided they had to get her out of the nursing home. Patty Neidert was relieved her mother was safe, and that's how she ended her story when she spoke with us this summer.

But like so much in 2020, things got complicated.

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NEIDERT: We took her to my sister's house for approximately three weeks just to assess how she was doing. Then we quickly realized the third week that she was, indeed, in need of extreme medical care.

SIMON: Patty Neidert's mother had a severe urinary tract infection. She spent two weeks in the hospital. At the same time, another crisis. Patty Neidert's sister got a cancer diagnosis. Her chemotherapy treatments would have made it harder to care for Mrs. Hedrick at her house. So just a little over a month after getting her mother out of the nursing home, Patty Neidert had to find someplace else for her mother.

NEIDERT: My mom has frontotemporal dementia, which is a different, rare kind of dementia. And people need to be interacting with her pretty much constantly. If she's alone, she goes into a state of panic. So she cannot be quarantined because she would just scream and scream and scream. So it was critical that we were getting her into a facility where she would be interacting with people. So I was on the search, on the hunt for a facility that would take her and not quarantine her. And we did. Fortunately, I found a place up here in Akron that dealt with dementia patients.

SIMON: And it's closer to Patty's home. Her mother's been at the assisted care facility for the past five months. It's on lockdown, so their visits are, once again, through the glass.

NEIDERT: I was just heartbroken. I just know that she misses me and she wants to hug me and love on me. And she keeps asking me to come in, you know, to give her a big hug, and I'm not able to. It breaks my heart and my spirit to have that happen, you know, to not be able to see her. And now that she's 90, I know that there are very few days we'll be able to do that.

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NEIDERT: The worry that we had - she has fallen many times. One day, she was bending over to get something she saw, and she fell out of her chair and broke her head open. So they did an ambulance call because she was bleeding very badly. So they called me, and I met them at the hospital. And I was able to be with Mom for about six or seven hours at the hospital, so that was really wonderful. As I was leaning over to talk to her and I was cuddling with her just before they did the stitches, she goes, honey, let's make a break for it. (Laughter) So she has a sense of humor, but she was really meaning it.

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SIMON: Patty Neidert may not have to wait long for more in-person reunions. Her mother's assisted care facility is on a track to receive their doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine this week.

NEIDERT: As soon as we get that vaccine, we're just very overjoyed that we'll be able to go in and see Mom. I tell her that the vaccine is arriving and that she should be getting it, you know, very shortly. And she goes, the light at the end of the tunnel - there's the light.

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SIMON: The first thing Patty Neidert wants to do with her mother when she's fully vaccinated...

NEIDERT: We would really love to take her to Macy's. That's her favorite place to go (laughter).

SIMON: Patty Neidert of Akron, Ohio - best of luck to you and your family.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.