At Delaware nursing homes, families wonder if they will be able to say goodbye


Delaware hospice facilities are having to make the powerful determination to maintain households aside throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Delaware Information Journal

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Since he was a boy, John Dean has heard his father speak about demise. 

He watched him do it within the pulpit at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rehoboth Seaside the place his dad, the Rev. John W. Dean, typically shared anecdotes evaluating a child within the womb minutes from delivery to an aged particular person minutes from demise.  

Neither knew what was on the opposite aspect, he mentioned. However after they obtained there — to the world and to heaven — they realized it wasn’t so dangerous; they weren’t alone. 

By means of the years, the reverend, now 86, made it clear to his two youngsters what he wished the top of his life to be like. No fuss and no extraordinary makes an attempt to maintain him alive. Only a quiet goodbye. 

So after he suffered a stroke final month, his household knew what to do and helped him transfer into hospice care in Milford.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and every thing modified. 

The one manner the household can see their patriarch is by tenting out on a small stone patio outdoors the French doorways main into their father’s room. When his eyes are open, they smile and wave at him, and he smiles again, clearly conscious they’re there. 

The Dean household is not alone in its plight.

As Delaware braces for a considerable spike in confirmed coronavirus circumstances, nursing properties and assisted dwelling facilities are taking unprecedented steps by banning members of the family from recurrently visiting their family members, a few of whom are near demise. 

DIRE PREDICTION: Delaware could see 3,000 coronavirus cases, 500 hospitalizations in coming weeks

John Dean isn’t certain how a lot time his father has, and the household worries he’ll die alone after he spent most of his life consoling church members and presiding over funerals.

“We would like extra for him than that,” John Dean mentioned. “He deserves extra for himself than that.”

And but, the knowledge of protecting folks out of locations like Delaware Hospice, nursing properties and different places that take care of the aged is more and more obvious in Delaware.

Eight of the state’s 14 deaths associated to the coronavirus have been related to nursing properties and assisted dwelling communities. On Saturday, the state mentioned there have been 23 circumstances, embrace the eight deaths, in 5 longterm care services. 

The services embrace Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Ogletown, HarborChase of Wilmington, Brandywine Dwelling at Seaside Pointe in Sussex County and Governor Bacon Well being Heart in Delaware Metropolis. The state on Saturday declined to determine the 5 facility.

State officers are investigating the supply of publicity in every case.

UPDATE: Brandywine Living resident dies from coronavirus; 3rd Delaware nursing home to confirm virus

This displays a grim development nationwide. The coronavirus makes its manner into the properties of the oldest and sickest. Like influenza, COVID-19 spreads simply and assaults the physique, significantly the lungs. Well being officers say it’s 10 occasions deadlier than the seasonal flu.

The pandemic, which has turned life the other way up in Delaware, has many fearing that their siblings or mother and father may very well be the subsequent one to contract the virus, particularly as a result of testing and private protecting tools for well being care staff is proscribed.

However Dean has a special concern. 

Will he miss an opportunity to say goodbye?

The folks’s pastor 

The Rev. John W. Dean was not your grandmother’s minister. 

In his youth, he rode a motorbike, typically together with his toddler son aboard. He believed girls needs to be ordained within the church. And within the 1990s, Dean vocalized his assist for the LGBTQ group. 

The reverend was the folks’s pastor in a manner, changing into well-known for being obtainable for last-minute seaside weddings and memorial companies. Within the 1970s, he hosted a radio present broadcasting weekly sermons all through Delaware. 

He turned so well-liked that hospital sufferers typically listed him as their minister regardless of by no means having met him. The sufferers had heard him on the radio and wished him to be there for his or her hardest moments. 

He retired in 2011. In mid-March, he suffered a stroke, which led to his keep at Delaware Hospice. He has diabetes and, following the demise of his spouse, his well being has steadily declined over the final three years. 

His son mentioned his father values high quality of life and has opted for palliative care.

Nobody within the household was ready for his last days to be like this, although.

As of April 4, the state has confirmed 593 circumstances of coronavirus. Of these circumstances, 153 folks contaminated are over the age of 65, together with the 14 deaths. Everybody who has died has been a senior with underlying well being points.


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Since Delaware confirmed its first case, Gov. John Carney has expressed nervousness about older Delawareans, typically speaking about how he worries about his personal mom. 

The governor said Monday he has “fairly a little bit of concern” that nursing properties and assisted dwelling services have not been doing sufficient to organize for the coronavirus and shield sufferers and staff. He mentioned the state is stepping up its guidance for these services. 

LASTING CHANGE? Coronavirus shows benefits of telemedicine

Of the 46 Delaware nursing properties rated on Medicare’s Nursing Dwelling Evaluate web site, many have had points associated to an infection. In the previous three years, 80% of those nursing properties have had a number of violations, in line with an evaluation by Delaware On-line/The Information Journal.

The problems associated to both not offering and implementing an an infection prevention and management program or not having a ample program that investigates, controls and retains an infection from spreading. 

Sixty % of those nursing properties had a couple of violation, in line with the evaluation. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Ogletown was the one one of many three services that had a demise final week — together with HarborChase and Brandywine Dwelling — to be rated on Medicare’s web site.

The nursing residence has a 5-star score, which is increased than the nationwide common and has not had any complaints that resulted in a quotation by Medicare in three years. 

But, at Little Sisters of the Poor, seven residents had examined optimistic for the coronavirus and 6 have died as of Sunday, April 4.

All these residents have been within the facility’s nursing care unit as a result of they have been in fragile well being, mentioned Sister Constance Veit, the ability’s spokeswoman. 


On Monday, Gov. John Carney answered questions on coronavirus from Delaware On-line/The Information Journal and readers.

Delaware Information Journal

The 2 nursing models have been quarantined. The sick and the nicely residents have been separated and are cared for by separate workers, Veit mentioned. 

She mentioned “nobody superfluous” is allowed in these areas, and members of the family are solely allowed in if a resident is dying. If this does happen, just one customer is allowed in at a time and they’re gowned and masked.

Within the residential space, the seniors are requested to stay of their rooms and are offered tray service for meals, she mentioned. 

“There may be completely no congregating or socializing within the lounges and different widespread areas,” Veit mentioned. 

HarborChase of Wilmington, the place six residents have examined optimistic as of final week, has taken comparable steps, mentioned David Dodson, vice chairman of gross sales and advertising and marketing for Harbor Retirement Associates.

As of Wednesday, no different residents or workers members have examined optimistic for coronavirus, Dodson mentioned. And lots of of those that have examined optimistic are “doing nicely and bettering.”

Weeks in the past, the nursing residence banned guests in addition to communal eating and occasions, he mentioned. 

At Delaware Hospice, the place John Dean’s father is staying, the choice to cease visitation was not a simple one, mentioned CEO Susan Lloyd.

“That is unprecedented,” she mentioned.

Lloyd mentioned the group has a duty to maintain its residents and workers protected.

“We really feel horrible,” she mentioned. “It’s a really troublesome scenario for households who’re on the finish of life.”

For sufferers who’ve “vital adjustments” for the more serious, Lloyd mentioned, the hospice middle will contact household and permit some guests. However it’s unclear when that occurs. 

Dean mentioned he finds the coverage “barbaric.” He understands the considerations in regards to the coronavirus and mentioned he’s keen to be screened for signs and put on protecting gear. 

Late final week, Dean tried to maneuver his father, who has stabilized, again into the nursing residence he beforehand lived in. The visitation coverage, he mentioned, would enable his father to have one customer at a time. 

However the nursing residence declined. Dean was instructed the ability had a restricted variety of beds as a result of coronavirus. 

His father must stay in hospice, alone. 

Staying till the top

The Deans have come ready for this chilly and damp Wednesday. They’ve a transportable awning and tenting chairs, the sort you sit in for youths’ soccer video games. Blankets cowl their legs. 

There are barely any vehicles in Delaware Hospice’s car parking zone. However John and Elizabeth, the reverend’s daughter, and her husband Michael are there. They may keep for hours, reminiscing about how the reverend would make them take a look at household images on his slide projector.

The nurses have turned John Dean’s mattress so he can see his youngsters. A few of his grandchildren have already mentioned their goodbyes. 

Some days, John speaks to his father on the cellphone. However the man’s voice is weak, and it’s change into tougher to know him. The conversations final solely minutes. The son has tried to observe his father lips, to piece collectively what he’s making an attempt to say. 

The reverend doesn’t perceive why his youngsters cannot come inside and as an alternative are sitting outdoors within the chilly. John has defined the pandemic, the rise in circumstances and the brand new guidelines. 

However his father can not conceive the magnitude of what is occurred since March 11, when the primary case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Delaware.

Throughout the state, Nancy Levenson can now see her sister, who lives at Brandywine Dwelling at Seaside Pointe close to Rehoboth Seaside, solely by waving outdoors her window within the reminiscence care unit. Levenson requested for her sister’s identify to not be printed out of concern for her privateness. 

The nursing residence banned guests March 12, the day earlier than Levenson’s sister’s birthday.

This meant Levenson couldn’t go to her sister and deal with her to cake and ice cream like she at all times does.

Levenson mentioned she acquired an electronic mail from the ability, alerting her a couple of resident testing optimistic. She mentioned she discovered of the resident’s demise by studying Delaware On-line. 


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The nursing residence mentioned final week that no different residents have been confirmed with the virus, and no workers members are self-isolating. The ability is conducting an investigation into how the resident was uncovered to the virus.

Whereas Levenson thinks her sister receives excellent care on the facility, she worries in regards to the lack of provides and protecting tools they’ve obtainable. 

The state’s present coverage is to solely check those that present signs till “we determine the danger to different residents and workers to implement additional an infection management measures,” mentioned state spokeswoman Stacey Hofmann.   

“Not all people with signs have to be examined as soon as the danger evaluation is accomplished,” she mentioned. 

What about those that may very well be asymptomatic? Levenson wonders. 

‘IT’S BEEN PRETTY TOUGH’ Nun discusses death of nursing home resident from coronavirus

In line with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, a Washington state long-term care facility discovered that 50% of optimistic circumstances have been in individuals who had no signs. 

“Proof of asymptomatic unfold reinforces for us the extremely necessary message, that all of us should act as if we now have the virus,” Hoffman mentioned.

“I need to shield (her),” Levenson mentioned of her older sister. “I like her. She shouldn’t be a sitting duck in a spot like this. They need to be shielding them as a lot as they’ll.” 

Again in Milford, nearly each afternoon, regardless of the climate, John Dean sits outdoors his father’s window. As a store trainer for Mariner Center College, Dean is presently working from residence. 

Elizabeth lives in Maryland, however joins her brother when she will be able to. She longs to carry her dad’s hand and stroke his head. Nobody is aware of if she may have an opportunity to try this once more.

Dean gained’t go away till it will get darkish, when the reverend can not see him.

He believes his dad would discover if he wasn’t there.

The opposite day, Dean mentioned, a nurse requested his father if he knew who was sitting outdoors his window.  

That is my son, the reverend replied. 

Knowledge reporter Jared Whalen contributed reporting to this text. 

Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at Comply with her on Twitter at @merenewman.

Meredith Newman, well being reporter

Meredith Newman, health reporter

As Delaware On-line’s well being reporter, I consider there has by no means been a extra necessary time for native journalism. Within the midst of this pandemic, I work tirelessly to verify Delawareans are given probably the most correct info. There isn’t any job I would reasonably do. Your subscriptions are direct investments in reporters like me. It permits me to proceed to dig deeper and preserve asking onerous inquiries to these in energy. Your assist makes a distinction.

If you value my work, please subscribe.

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