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How Pandemic Isolation Affects Alzheimer’s Disease Patients in Nursing Homes

When the nursing assistant began to change Peggy’s bedding, I spoke to her treating nurse in the hallway. When Peggy arrived at the facility about two weeks ago, she had bedsores on her heels and hips. In Peggy’s room, the nurse changed the bandages and the heel wounds did not appear to be so bad, but just above the tailbone of the back was a yellowish raw dinner plate-sized wound. “It’s much better,” said the nurse, her finger air-traced a circle about one-third larger than what I could see.

Both pressure ulcers and pulmonary embolism can be caused by lying in the same position for extended periods of time. No one accused her of neglecting her previous nursing home, but when she arrived, they revealed that the pain was already there. They developed during the first four months of Covid’s shutdown when my sister, her main advocate, was not allowed to visit.

Her bandages changed, the sheets were fresh, and Peggy turned to her side. Her eyes were calm, and when she fell asleep, she knew who I was.

While she was asleep, I explored her room and found that the remains of her curious and acquired life remained in the institutional space. Her photo album was sticky and the page was crackling with age. I knew many of those pictures. There she was a bridesmaid, tall, deeply tanned, with blue eyes shining, holding the hand of our father, who hadn’t lived that long since the picture was taken. There was a picture of my five sisters and a picture of Peggy, who was 10 years older than me, who stood as a surrogate mother when she graduated from high school. There was a picture of a boyfriend who chased her to the ends of the globe, but she couldn’t commit. Here are pictures of my niece and nephew from our home in New Jersey, a lush patio and pool, and her skiing Peggy.

They are from a life in which none of us live anymore, around 2005 when my mother sold her home, moved to Assisted Living and left Peggy for the first time in her life without a place to land. It ended in. Her bipolar disorder, which she struggled to manage, began to eat up the life she had built for herself before Alzheimer’s disease finished her job.

How Pandemic Isolation Affects Alzheimer’s Disease Patients in Nursing Homes

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