Additional Joplin nursing homes report COVID-19 cases

Residents struggle with challenge of being away from loved ones.
NHC Healthcare Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. – Carthage resident and MSSU professor Kevin Keller has temporarily lost two of the most important things in his life. Travel, and his mother Pauletta.

“She’s very happy, very jovial. But with advanced dementia, she has no concept of time,” says Keller, speaking on how his mother is doing at a nursing home outside of Carthage.

Keller used to see her every day, going after work to check on her because that’s what she would do for him. But, he hasn’t been able to see her but a few times for doctors appointments since March.

“In the beginning, it was especially difficult because I couldn’t think about the possibilities or it would just drive me insane,” says Keller. “But I began to realize shutting out thinking about the possibilities of our mother catching COVID, also just required me to… I couldn’t think about her in any capacity.”

Nursing homes in the area have been restricting visitations in some capacity since March. So Keller isn’t the only one struggling with the situation.

Resident Samantha Haynes says it’s been extremely difficult since she wasn’t able to see her grandpa in person before he passed away, or be there for her grandma when she lost her companion.

Shelley Logan has to see her mother from the ground floor when she is on the top level of the facility — and struggles being able to communicate with staff who are overworked.

“April 14th my mom had a heart-attack and coded in the ambulance in the drive of her home. We were not able to be with her during the next month while she was on a ventilator. She spent a week at Via Christi hospital then the next 3 weeks in Landmark Hospital in Joplin before entering Via Christi rest home on May 28th. She is still a resident at the rest home and one of our biggest struggles is not being with her daily to take care of her needs,” says Logan.

Nursing homes are working to help families stay in touch with loved ones, as well as prevent the spread of the virus. But now two new facilities are reporting cases.

NHC Healthcare has 9 residents who have tested positive, 3 employees, and one death.

And Joplin Health and Rehab has 22 residents who have tested positive, and 13 staff, when the facility didn’t have any cases ten days ago.

Joe Perkins, spokesperson for Northport Health Services which owners Joplin Health and Rehab, says they have set up a COVID isolation unit, and that one-two residents and one member of the staff have symptoms.

“There is a direct correlation between cases in the community and cases in the facility,” says Perkins. “Until community spread is under control, it won’t be controlled anywhere.”

For nursing residents and their families, the future remains unclear.

“A friend of mine once called Alzheimer’s dementia the long goodbye. And I have to tell you that long goodbye keeps getting longer and longer,” says Keller.