Siblings trying to reconnect with mom at Peabody’s Brooksby Village
PEABODY — Massachusetts recently became the first state in the nation to allow nursing home visits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, opening the door for thousands to visit their loved ones after 10 weeks of isolation.
But not if you live at Brooksby Village, which, while it has done a commendable job in keeping death off its campus with just two among its 1,800 residents, it has also kept families seeking to reconnect with their loved ones in assisted living and skilled care, off campus as well.
Siblings Arlyne Salvato of Peabody, Sharon Salvucci of Danvers and Alan Corin of Sudbury, whose 87-year-old mother, Estelle Corin, is a resident in the continuing care unit at Brooksby, had high hopes they would be able to see their mother for the first time in nearly 12 weeks, but they are still on the outside looking in.
“My mother is a COVID-19 casualty. All we want to do is to be able to stand outside
her window so she can see us and know that we love her,” said Salvato. “We’re not asking to go in, we need her to know we haven’t given up on her. Her mental state is getting worse every day, ever since Brooksby stopped allowing visitors. We’re worried that we will never get to see her again.”
The family’s story is fraught with frustration. Estelle had a vibrant and outgoing personality. A former assistant city clerk in Revere, she moved from her Revere Beach condominium into Brooksby’s independent living unit about three years ago. But over the last year, physical problems caught up with her, resulting in numerous trips to emergency rooms and short-term stays in Brooksby’s rehab unit.
By the end of 2019, her condition had deteriorated and the decision was made to move her to assisted living.
“When she moved there, we arranged for the highest level of care, but then COVID-19 hit. We were told that many staff members supposed to be helping my mother now had other responsibilities, so those things never happened,” said Salvucci.
One of those things that never happened were FaceTime sessions.
“We each had, maybe just one session, before they stopped,” Salvucci said. “When we tried to call, we either couldn’t get an answer or nobody returned our calls. We finally got four calls in one day only after I said to them, ‘what do I have to do to make this happen, hire a lawyer?’ We were watching our mother slip away and were powerless to help her. We were watching her lose her will to live.”
The situation deteriorated even more, when Estelle lost interest in answering her phone. A tiny person standing slightly more than 4 feet 8 inches, Estelle has lost 32 pounds in the last 10 weeks.
Jennifer Nakhai, a licensed clinical independent social worker and owner of AEON Counseling and Consulting in Lynn, said the elderly are affected at a greater rate than the rest of the population when it comes to the effects of isolation.
“Isolation is one of the biggest risk factors that contributes to a decline, the loss of the will to live,” she said. “They may be getting good care, but they are surrounded by people you don’t know, so they decline faster because the legacies they built, their families, are no longer with them.”
Sharon said that Estelle’s condition continued to decline, resulting in a move into the nursing unit about five weeks ago.
Despite the siblings’ protestations, Brooksby held firm on its no-visitors policy.
“At this time, we have not modified our visitation process at Brooksby Village,” said Dan Dunne, Director of External Communications for Erickson Living, the company that developed and manages Brooksby. “We understand that this entire situation has not been easy, including for family members. All of our actions have been taken out of an abundance of caution and consistent with CDC and health department guidelines. We will be resuming visiting as soon as possible with appropriate precautionary measures in place.
Both sisters said they feel the lack of social contact has contributed to Estelle’s decline.
“We saw her all the time when she was in independent living, and I called every day on the way to work. She had a lot of social interaction there, she existed, she had a strong network of acquaintances all over, but all that is gone now and we can’t do anything about it,” said Salvato. “Our dad is turning in his grave, we promised him we would take care of her and we followed the plan, and now, close to the end of her life, she has no rest, no peace. It’s breaking our hearts.”
Estelle will turn 88 June 23.
“We obviously want to see her on her birthday, but all they said was they’ll give her a cake,” Salvato said.