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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Bringing Loved Ones Home From Long-Term Care Isn't An Option For Everyone

An elderly couple walks down a hall in Easton, Pa.
Associated Press
An elderly couple walks down a hall in Easton, Pa.

It's been about two and a half years since Tricia Myers' family decided to move her 95-year-old mother into the Cottonwood Creek Healthcare Community in Richardson. Myers said her mother, who has dementia, needed round-the-clock care when her cognitive health began to decline.

"She was unable to feed herself, care for herself hygiene-wise," Myers said. "The dementia, of course, she would get turned around in her own home, so it was just getting to be unsafe for her."

In late March, Dallas County began seeing clusters of COVID-19 transmission at nursing homes and assisted living centers. The outbreak exposed how easily infectious disease can spread within these communities, where many residents have underlying health conditions and live very close to each other. To date, more than a thirdof COVID-19-related deaths in the county have been associated with long-term care facilities.

Families who have lost loved ones are seeking accountability. The federal government is now requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases to residents and their loved ones, as well as to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the outbreak grows, North Texas health officials have asked families to consider bringing relatives home to reduce their risk of exposure, but that isn't an option for everyone.

Tricia Myers said putting a loved one into long-term care isn't an easy decision, but neither is taking them out. She's overcome feelings of guilt about not being able to care for her mother at home. During this pandemic, Myers feels her mom is in good hands, under the care of professionals.

"They have very strict standards," she said. "Certainly no place is perfect, but I feel very comfortable with mama being there, the care she is receiving." 

Syeda Hasan is the Elections Editor and Reporter at KERA. Before moving into that role, she covered mental health at the station. A Houston native, her journalism career has taken her to public radio newsrooms around Texas.