By Teresa Reile
“I feel like I will never see my mom alive again.” – Jessica Maines
A group of about 60 people gathered at Terrace View Long Term Nursing Care Facility at 462 Grider St. Buffalo to serenade the residents inside the long-term facility with holiday carols.
Carolers were not allowed access inside the building, so they sang outside. The staff inside the building made sure that the residents were looking out their windows when the carolers arrived. Some residents have not had contact with family members for almost a year.
After hearing a heart-wrenching story of neglect, isolation and despair, Frank Kolbmann Buffalo native and concerned citizen, organized a carolcade event at the facility.
He called the event Serenading Our Seniors or S.O.S. to brighten up the holiday season of those stuck inside the facility and to raise awareness of the plight of the people who have been sequestered inside these homes with no in-person family contact and no ability to even go outside.
During the caroling, one man reached his hand out the window because he wanted human touch.
This movement has sprung out of love for one’s neighbor after hearing about Jessica Maine’s situation with her mother. Her mom is 63 years with Alzheimer’s. Because of COVID-19 restrictions placed on the nursing homes by the Governor and enforced by the Erie County Executive and the Health Department, Jessica has not been able to see her mother since March 12, 2020.
Jessica has hired an attorney and has been fighting, however, the fact remains that her mother has not had a haircut or her toenails cut since March. These things are now considered a COVID-19 risk. Jessica says that if she could see her mother, she would do it. But she is not allowed. Before COVID-19, she was there 5 days a week, tending to her mother’s needs which was a huge help to the staff.
“The staff can’t do everything and they certainly can not provide the type of care and love that a family member can,” says Maine. She is crying while relaying this.
“The staff are wonderful – but they are exhausted. They are understaffed and overworked. The workers want the family in there. They need help. The staff are following the rules put in place by the politicians, but the rules are not in the best interests of the patients.”
On Dec. 1, Jessica’s mom tested positive for COVID-19. Her mother has not left the facility since March. Before testing positive, Jessica’s mom was in the Alzheimer’s unit which has specialized round the clock care for the patients.
Maines has tried to get her mother out of the nursing home so that she could give her one-on-one care that an Alzheimer patient needs, but was told that her mother would get better care in the facility because of the very fact that her mother was in the Alzheimer unit.
But Since testing positive for COVID-19, her mother has been moved out of the Alzheimer unit to the COVID-19 unit where the staff are not trained in Alzheimer care.
For an Alzheimer’s patient to be moved to another unit and out of the element that they are used to, is traumatic to them. They get disoriented, confused and some get incredibly angry and upset.
Since COVID-19 began, Jessica has been having a hard time reaching anyone at the facility, but since her mother was moved, she doesn’t even know where her mother is other than she is in the COVID-19 positive unit.
When she calls that unit, sometimes the patients themselves answer the phone. She has called and emailed to no avail. Her mother has deteriorated dramatically since the COVID-19 restrictions have been implemented.
Jessica Maines with her mother BEFORE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS
Jessica Maines on a call with her mother AFTER COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS
Employees who test positive are still reporting to work
According to Maines, the residents get tested for COVID-19 3x per week while the employees get tested 2x per week. Typically the tests take 5 days to get the results, which means if an employee is actually positive, there is a window of a few days where they are still reporting to work in which they can be infecting the patients. AFTER the test results come back positive, they are told to go home and quarantine.
Restrictions say that not one person can test positive in the facility. If there is even one positive case, family members are not allowed in. Yet, employees can.
Before her mom tested positive, Maines drove 3.5 hours to see her mother after making an appointment, getting a test and testing negative, wearing gloves and masks. Upon arrival, she was told that someone had tested positive and she was not allowed to see her mother.
She argued with the staff for an hour and finally, they brought her mother down to see her, however, she was not allowed to go near her. In fact, they put two tables in between her and her mom. Her mom was crying…she did not understand why she could not touch her daughter or go home with her. But the aide went over to her mom and consoled her and touched her without gloves – just a mask.
“The holidays are a time for family and people in nursing homes live to see their family members.”
Kolbmann has heard several stories of loved ones dying alone without family members nearby because of the restrictions placed on them. “If nursing home personnel can don PPE and be around the patients,” said Kolbmann, “why can’t family members do the same? It is cruel and inhumane. Without visits from family members they have no hope or desire to live.”
One of the carolers, Jacquie Sheer Walker said, “Family visits could alleviate much of that problem. Family members could help with feeding, basic care, sitting with them, just spending time with them during the day. Now that the families cannot be there, the burden is completely on the staff.”
Another woman named Dorothy stated that she got involved because she watched her mother die in a nursing home gasping for every breath, thin and mottled suffering from starvation and neglect, and it breaks her heart to see other families suffering from this.
“Bottom line, family, staff, and residents are burned out and exhausted with the Governors and Health Dept. restrictions. We are a team who all help each other which is what makes it works. If any part of that puzzle goes missing, it becomes impossible for everyone involved,” says Maines.
The Carolers are sending out an SOS and intend on Saving Our Seniors while Serenading Our Seniors
For those who would like to join in on this most heartfelt endeavor, please join the carolers next Sunday, December 13, 2020, at 2 pm at Absolut Care on Main Street in East Aurora, NY