In mid-April, Faith Heimbrodt got a call from the Bria Health Services nursing home in Geneva, Illinois, saying her mother, Carol Orlando, was not in good health. She immediately feared COVID-19. But she says facility staff insisted her 79-year-old mother didn’t show symptoms of the virus, and that her illness likely was due to her advanced dementia.
Alarmed, she got permission to visit her mother, even though the facility had been on lockdown since March. Heimbrodt, who has five children at home and suffers from multiple sclerosis, went wearing a gown, respirator and face shield, but she was shocked to see staff and residents without masks. A desperate-looking certified nursing assistant asked how she got her respirator, so she gave it to him.
Her mother’s room was filthy, with dirty diapers on the floor. Her roommate was coughing, unmasked, in the adjoining bed, with no room divider. Orlando looked thin and dehydrated, her eyes sunken and her mouth covered with sores. Heimbrodt squeezed her mother’s hand and leaned in close, wanting but not daring to lift her face shield and kiss her. She left sooner than she planned, nervous about the risk of exposure to the virus.
A week later, Heimbrodt got a call that her mother was dead.