My Grandfather Was In A Nursing Home That Experienced COVID-19
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Health and Wellness

My Grandfather Didn't Have Coronavirus, But It's Still Why He Died Last Week

He was a casualty of this horrible pandemic.

My Grandfather Didn't Have Coronavirus, But It's Still Why He Died Last Week
Ana Berbel

My grandfather was 88 years old. He had Alzheimer's. My grandmother took care of him until it was too difficult for her to do so without professional help. It was then that we made the decision that it was better for him to live in the nursing home, Caser, as it was located very close to his usual home. Still, my family took him out daily so he could visit and eat with my grandmother. My dad and aunt took turns going to give him dinner in the facility. This lasted the four years he was there. And during that time, within the severity of his illness, my grandfather remained healthy.

This all changed when two days before the whole city officially went into lockdown, the nursing home decided (according to them to take extreme precautions) to close their doors and prohibit both the families from entering and the residents from leaving. Our elders were left completely in their hands. Even so, we left clear instructions on the care that my grandfather required for a correct diet. Unfortunately, already a feeling of unease flooded through us, silenced by our own reasoning that it would "only be 15 days" and that he was in one of the best-rated nursing homes in the region.

After Caser closed its doors, we tried to get in touch every day to find out how my grandfather was doing, something that was not easy, since we had to call repeatedly for them to pick up the phone. It was distressing. We felt powerless not knowing if he was OK and not being able to do anything but wait for news that seemed to never come. It is now when we realize that, the times that they did arrive, they were all false.

The fastest way to get rid of us was to tell us that everything was going well — that we didn't have to worry.

I want to highlight the disorganization, the lies and the abandonment that the Caser nursing home has carried out during these two weeks. To give you an idea, until Saturday, March 21, the information that we received from them was, at all times, that my grandfather was perfectly well, that he ate without any problems and that we had nothing to worry about. Just three days later, my grandfather passes away.

I'll explain to you how we have lived through this hell.

Sunday 22: the news is released that a Caser resident tested positive for COVID-19. We managed to get in touch with the nursing home and are informed that the floor the resident lives on has been completely isolated and that everything is under control.

Monday 23: It is almost impossible to contact the nursing home to receive any kind of information. We are told that the case occurred on the second floor and that the rest of the residents were in their rooms isolated. My grandfather was on the third floor.

Tuesday 24: In the morning, they call us from the nursing home and tell us that my grandfather has mild respiratory failure and that they had called 112 (emergency number). As he did not have a fever or cough, they did not test for COVID-19 (probably to steer clear from uncovering more cases inside the home) and they simply give him a shot of an antihistamine. They tell us that they will call us throughout the day, but we don't receive any news. At 6 p.m., unable to contact them by phone, my uncle goes to the nursing home and tries to speak to someone to check if they have given him an antibiotic. A social worker comes out the door and tells him that the doctor would call us. At 8 p.m., they call my aunt and tell her, "Your father has already been prescribed the antibiotic, but I am sorry to tell you that he has passed away."

Imagine what state of shock we all went into when in less than 24 hours, my grandfather went from supposedly being well every day, to having pneumonia of an unknown origin.

The situation already seemed quite suspicious to us. Once we learned of his death, my dad went to the nursing home, and that only further confirmed our suspicion of disorganization and neglect. "It seemed that they had not fed him since they closed. He looked like skin and bones," my father said when he got home.

A few days later, more information began to come out about why the doors had been closed before the rest of the nursing homes, and what had been happening in there. Apparently, it was Monday, March 9, when the first positive for COVID-19 was confirmed inside the center. They did not warn anyone. They didn't even give us the option to get my grandfather out of the center. We now realize that rather than preventing, they tried to hide the situation and control it from within, which was a real debacle.

Most of the employees were infected and quarantined in their homes. The residents were left at their mercy, with barely any food, no clean clothes, no diapers, and little medical attention. And they still didn't tell us anything. This led to the total collapse of the center. It was then when the authorities intervened.

To our regret, my grandfather became a collateral victim of this pandemic.

A week has already passed, and I still do not understand how it is possible that this situation has been reached, not only in Caser, but also in many nursing homes in Spain. Our elders, in good health or not, are still people and their lives matter. A person should never have to live in those conditions, much less those who need help to carry out their day. I find it outrageous and embarrassing. How do you expect my family to be able to move on when my grandfather's death was not so much due to natural causes but to the abandonment that he has suffered?

Writing this article has been my way of letting all the thoughts that were locked up come out and for people to realize the reality that we are living. Our elders are not lost cases — they just need our help to fight, and win.

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