A year of COVID: Families of dying loved ones forced to adapt

JAMISON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Action News was there back on March 26, 2020, when Jeannette Thomas' family visited her for the first time since Covid-19 restricted visits at assisted living facilities.

In the early days of the pandemic, Thomas' family could only say "hello" through the window.

"This is much better than the time in prison (laughter)," her family joked.

While humor helped during this visit at The Bridges of Warwick, the reality of a changing world was quickly setting in.

"So there were no heaters, you would just sit there, you know, have snuggled up to the window. You're looking through a screen, there's a glare on the window," said her daughter, Joanne Volm.

Milestones like Thomas' 96th birthday were done from a distance. But an emotional hole remained. There was no touch, no kisses and no hugs.

"We used to give air hugs like this, we used to say this was to give you a hug through the window," Volm said.

The family eventually moved Thomas to another facility, which allowed for more indoor activities and visits albeit still six feet apart.

But a fall in January would change everything.

"You do have a lot of guilt," said Volm. "We moved her from one place to the other did that cause it? We don't know. It was it inevitable? We don't know," said Volm.

The fall left Thomas unable to swallow.

After care at Abington Hospital, doctors soon told the family that Thomas would need to go into hospice.

"So the one redeeming thing was that we could spend her final days with her because she was considered hospice," she said.

Those finals visits would be brief. Eleven days later Thomas passed away.

"We got over there and had an hour and a half, right before she passed to be with her," she said. "So that was a blessing there. So there were good things that happened."

The pandemic has left too many families adapting to comfort loved ones when life comes to an end. Thomas' story is another bitter reminder of that.
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