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A bare bones Thanksgiving at Michigan’s long-term care facilities


People with loved ones in long-term care facilities are making the most out of this year's incomplete Thanksgiving gatherings.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued guidancethis week urging that residents stay in their facilities to avoid coronavirus infection. Many residents will be confined to their rooms.

So, as they have been throughout the pandemic, families are turning to tools like FaceTime and Zoom to see their parents' faces.

Kathleen McCartney says her 99-year-old mom has learned how to communicate that way from her home at the Applewood Nursing Center in Woodhaven.

This Thanksgiving, “That’s the best-case scenario,” she says. “Technology's been a blessing. It’s been an absolute blessing. It’s not the solution, but it’s been a blessing.”

Today, her mom will hold a Zoom call with five households of family members.

Brandi Collins’ 87-year-old dad has lived at the Heartland Health Care facility in Sterling Heights since 2018. She says she didn’t even consider getting him home for the holiday.

“Had COVID not, I guess, reasserted itself so strongly these last two months, I might have, but since it came back so strong I just didn't want to risk it,” she said.

Instead, a staff member will help her dad with a FaceTime call. He’ll get to see Collins and her husband, and his wife of 67 years.

Though little more than a phone call, Collins calls it a “Godsend.”

McCartney says she appreciates the staff for coordinating these visits, and that the “downfall in this scenario is not being able to go in and support your family member — which also supports the staff. And that’s what you’re seeing. A crumbling of support.”

Staffing shortages were endemic to Michigan’s long-term care industry well before the coronavirus exposed them.

As of this week, MDHHS was monitoring 367 COVID outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

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Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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