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My Parents Both Have COVID 19

And I’m pissed

coronavirus news on screen
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Why? Because this is another unnecessary episode in the $#itshow that has been 2020. Because we have now come to point where politicization of objective science and equally objectively ludicrous conspiracy theories apparently have equal merit in the name of “balance” in the news cycle.

There was a time when we as a nation rallied excitedly behind science to achieve the dream of a moon shot. Now we have a large percentage of our population that has been so bludgeoned by alternative “facts” as to be convinced that the wearing of a mask (as DOCTORS and SURGEONS do every day to protect and be protected) is somehow an infringement on their freedoms.

I know this argument has been made before, but indulge me, oh snowflakes who don’t want to wear a mask because it’s uncomfortable or you think it means that you get less oxygen or too much carbon dioxide, or, what? It leaves a mark on your face? It fogs your glasses? It messes up your makeup? It’s “the man, telling you what to do?” F*&k you. It’s a small sacrifice to make, and is a joke compared to the rations and other sacrifices this country happily endured, for example, during WWII for. . . what? The. Greater. Good.

The background

My parents are in their early 80s. Both have dementia. The last time my dad left the house (before the visit last week to the doctor that delivered his, and my mother’s positive diagnosis) was a month ago, when I took them for their flu shots. His vascular dementia has mostly affected him physically, rendering him incapable of most aspects of self-care, and now, the ability to get himself into and out of bed, or to even walk a few steps.

Mom’s dementia is different, likely exacerbated by hearing loss. She loses words. She gets frustrated. Agitated. Confused. Angry. The angry part was always there– I have said in the past that anger is her default emotion. The dementia amplifies it. As does the non-stop blaring of her choice of TV “news” media. I watch as it pushes all her fear and anger buttons. If faced with the unavailability of television, she will fall back to talk radio that stokes the same emotions. I used to try to discuss these things. It was fruitless. I was the enemy. I gave up in the name of peace.

Because of their dementia and its effects, we have caregivers in place to support them, 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m there several times a week, and recently, daily. When they received their positive diagnosis last week, I assumed that, despite all the precautions taken by their caregivers every day, either one of the caregivers (or I!) must have been the vector that infected my parents.

The plot thickens

Yet, all have tested negative thus far. Including me.

As I communicated updates to my sister last week, she enlightened me to something I didn’t know, which my mother had shared with her in a recent phone conversation. With apparent glee, she laughed while she told my sister how she sometimes “forgets” her mask when she goes grocery shopping (she may have dementia, but she knows she’s supposed to wear a mask. There is always one in her purse). She waits for someone to approach her to “remind” her before she’ll put it on.

So, let’s lay out our facts:

1) Everyone who has come into my parents’ home in the past two to three weeks has tested negative (I might also add that the caregivers are required to get tested every two weeks anyway);

2) My dad has had no contact with anyone during that time outside of their home;

3) My mother has gone grocery shopping at least twice in the past three weeks. While doing so, she has decided to sometimes not wear a mask while in public until someone asks her to put one on.

I should note that I offered, months ago as this all began, to do the shopping for my mother to keep her from being exposed. This irritated her. How dare I try to take away her one shred of independence? So I let her have her independence with a warning: “you’d better make sure you always wear your mask.”

I believe it is safe to conclude, based upon these facts, that my mother managed to be in the right place at the right time, failing to take the right actions, which made it easy for the virus to do what it does so masterfully: propagate itself through any available host.

The punch line

So here we are. It would be a stretch to arrive at any conclusion other than this: my mother brought this upon herself. And upon my father. So yeah. I’m pissed.

My mother used to be more rational, despite her propensity for anger. Now the toxic combination of her dementia, her emotional nature, and the constant drum of conflicting information she gets from the single-sourced media flowing into her brain have combined in the worst way.

But I bite my tongue and leave my rage in the car with every trip I make to their house to check in and take their temperatures and blood oxygen readings (three times a day). Overall their conditions have worsened in the past week, but they fluctuate from fine to concerning and back again.

It’s become quite difficult to find caregivers who are willing to put themselves at risk to help my parents. Their main caregiver has been a trooper, but the ongoing coverage is a juggling act. They receive full PPE from the agency, but these wonderful souls signed up to be companions and caregivers, not medical professionals dealing with a highly infectious virus. I don’t blame any one of them a single bit for opting out.

No perfect solutions

I’m working with the transitional care nurse at my parents’ doctors’ office to get visiting nurses in place as an immediate solution for ongoing assessment. That way I can stop putting myself (and, by extension, my husband, who has emphysema) at risk by taking their vitals multiple times each day.

Simultaneously, given the level of close contact that my father’s care requires, we all agree that the best course of action will be getting both of them into a COVID-certified care facility ASAP, where they would remain until they get the all-clear. So we’re also working on that. This assumes, of course, that their blood oxygen or other vitals don’t hit a point that demands hospitalization before that.

Don’t let this happen to you

If you’re in a high risk group, don’t expose yourself to this virus unnecessarily. Here are some ideas:

Let people shop for you. Spend that time going for a walk in the fresh air instead, or visiting in a socially distanced, safe way with friends or loved ones. If you can’t go for a walk, sit outside, or near an open window.

Turn off the news. Stop doing as many things as you can control that cause you anxiety or anger or evince any other negative emotion. Over-production of cortisol (the hormone our bodies release when our “fight or flight” response gets triggered) is linked to suppression of immune response.

Get your flu shot (there is reason to believe that it may help boost your immune response if you do contract this virus).

Eat healthy, fresh foods as much as possible. Drink plenty of fluids.

And everyone, for the love of God, yourself, and your fellow citizens, WEAR A MASK.


  1. Oh my gosh, Marcia, so sorry to hear this news! What a state we live in!! Keith has not been feeling well since yesterday and his doctor sent him to be tested today. Won’t know the results for a few days. He is ever so careful but it really doesn’t matter if others do not take the precautions you do! I hope your parents recover soon. Hugs.

  2. HI there…I am so very sorry to read this….the whole situation must be a toxic mix of fear, anger, and sadness. I wish there was something I could say or do for you…just know it is ok to vent, and the people who love you will listen!!! xxo

  3. Holy crap Marcia. I am sympathy pissed! And worried for you. I’m sorry you are going through this and I promise to wear a mask everywhere,and mild mannered me will be the obnoxious human that insists that others around me wear a mask too!

    Anyone need a mask? I am getting masterful at making them.

    • You are the best, Ellen!!! Place your orders people! Ellen is one amazingly multi-talented woman!!!

  4. Oh my friend. What a shit show this year is! So sorry to hear about your parents and the process to positive. Ugh. Stay safe and heed your own good words of self care. Let me know if I can do anything to help. More tomatoes, perhaps? xo

      • They are definitely not of summer quality, but have us tricked into thinking we *still* have an edge over the supermarket offerings! Hugs to you guys and healing karma to your parents. And Scotch for everyone!

  5. Marcua my heart goes out to you and your family. Will keep you in my prayers that all goes well.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Karr and Ann

  7. Dear Marcia. Please forgive my tardy response. I sincerely hope that in the time that has passed since your posting of this the conditions of your parents have improved and they are past the most dangerous stages. I’m also hoping you have not developed symptoms as well.

    As a retired epidemiologist of many years I admire and respect your apparent understanding of highly infectious agents and your flawless ability to craft an appropriate response. I would like to add to your recommendations that people substantially increase their intake of Vitamin D. It’s a very simple thing to do, even with supplements, and is increasingly being shown to very significantly bolster the immune system.

    I am concerned, and I empathize with the anger you feel. In times like these it is often difficult to accurately identify a reasonable target of the anger, and an appropriate response. But what you have written speaks volumes of wisdom.

    • Thank you so much Marco — YES on vitamin D!!! Mom’s now been asymptomatic for over 10 days (aside from a fairly precipitous drop in her cognitive functioning) and she tested negative last Wednesday. Dad has just today been moved out of the COVID unit at the care facility I finally had to send him to about five days after my post. He is still at the facility though— he’s been nearly non-verbal (no more than yes/no responses except when he recognized my mom on a video chat last week- that got three words: “that’s my wife,” which was cute). He also remains exceedingly weak, and, sadly, given my experiences over the past year in attempting to get him to do exercises to improve his strength, I do not anticipate anyone will enjoy much success in that area. I have a call scheduled on Thursday afternoon with his full care team to get the complete picture of where he stands and their thoughts on his prognosis and ongoing care management.

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