STANWOOD — It’s about a 30-minute drive from Cheryl VanderMey’s Mount Vernon home to a nursing home where her mother lives.
But in these days when fear of the novel coronavirus has gripped the world, especially when it comes to the vulnerability of seniors, thoughts of her mother are much closer. They are her constant companion.
As of Friday, 21 residents and staff of Josephine Caring Community have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and four people have died.
VanderMey waits. She hopes. She worries.
“Every day I wake with a sense of dread that something terrible is marching slowly and inexorably toward my mother,” VanderMey said. “And I can’t do anything to stop it.”
While the nation’s eyes were first fixed on the surge of illness and death at Life Care Center of Kirkland, this nursing home in Snohomish County 48 miles to the north flew a little more under the radar when it was announced in early March that three cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed there. Those three residents — a woman in her 90s, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s — were taken to a hospital. The man died March 9.
VanderMey says her mother, who turns 88 this week, is “square in the bad demographics” to contract the virus, though she is heartened that Josephine staff have told her she is on a separate wing from the residents who have tested positive, and that staff who have tested positive have not interacted with her mother.
VanderMey is hopeful her mother’s penchant for keeping to herself has worked to her advantage.
“My mom is a hermit,” she said. “She wasn’t one of those people who was mobile, who went out to a lot of activities.”
Josephine has 136 residents in its nursing home, 60 in its assisted living units, and a staff of 300, according to Josephine CEO Terry Robertson. VanderMey is thankful for the measures the nursing home took, quickly, as she sees it.
“I was turned away (from visiting my mother) … before they even had their first case,” VanderMey said. “They (the staff) were screening in the lobby, telling people who absolutely didn’t have to do business, to wait.”
And wait is all VanderMey can do these days. She and her two sisters have taken turns visiting their mother since she came to live at Josephine nearly three years ago. VanderMey says her mother has dementia.
After a phone conversation with their mother since the outbreak, one of VanderMey’s sisters reported she “sounded good and in good spirits,” VanderMey said. But, VanderMey added, “the longer we can’t see her, the more we’re afraid she will no longer recognize us because of her dementia.”
As difficult as it has been to have a mother at a nursing home in lockdown, VanderMey is thankful for the care her mother has received at Josephine, which was founded in 1908 and is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
“We love those people,” VanderMey said of the Josephine staff, “… I know the care that we’ve seen them give our mother, and the love and compassion. So we at least as a family, are grateful.”
In the meantime, a daughter worries, waits and hopes for an end to a pandemic that could reach anyone at any time.