Since mid-March, when they locked their doors to all visitors, long-term care facilities in Texas have created the cruelest of contradictions. In order to defend the physical health of their residents, the residences are damaging their emotional health. Confronted with a dizzying surge in Covid-19 cases — since the start of the pandemic, some 4,000 Texas nursing home residents have died and thousands more have been infected — administrators were understandably fearful. Overnight, the word “visitation” had lurched from its everyday meaning of a family member coming to call to its archaic sense of divine wrath coming to afflict.
But their success in stemming the pandemic’s onslaught has created — to use the state’s own phrase — a metastasizing “failure to thrive” among the residents. How could it be otherwise? At my understaffed nursing home, my co-workers struggled to meet the basic demands of the residents: cleaning and changing, shifting and shuttling, serving and supporting them. Or, indeed, understanding them. When residents leave their rooms, they must wear masks. Their voices, already weak, are even more muffled.
Editorial credit: Tommy Larey / Shutterstock.com