Family and friends care for sick loved ones from a distance amid visitor restrictions

MADISON, Wis.– Visitors are temporarily restricted from most hospitals to help stop the spread of coronavirus, forcing family and friends to care for their loved ones from a distance.

“Think about running as fast as you can and then you have to come to a dead stop, right, and you can no longer move. That’s the way we feel,” Theresa Carlson said.

Carlson said she has been caring for her brother, who has been in and out of hospitals and clinics for the past two years.

“I spend hours of time with doctors and nurses when he is normally in to explain his story and what’s happened,” Carlson said.

Now, restrictions are keeping Carlson away from her brother.

“My mom drove down from Eau Claire to just stand in the parking lot of the facility to say hi as he was wheeled into the facility,” Carlson said.

Carlson said she spends most days sitting by the phone, hoping for updates on her brother’s condition.

“Our family will be waiting,” Carlson said. “We’ll be waiting to just find out the basics, like his labs.”

SSM Health said health professionals call patient families with daily updates.

“Either the resident or the physician actually reaches out to the contact person that we have here in their chart and updates them and answers any additional questions they may have,” SSM Health Administrative Supervisor Lexi Suchla said.

Patients are able to Facetime using SSM hospital IPads, which Suchla said has been a success.

“We’ve seen so much mood improvement by them, by the patients here and just their overall lookout of their hospital stay, even just being able to see a familiar face,” Suchla said.

Carlson said she won’t give up on caring for her brother, even from a distance.

“One thing we can do, I think is to continue advocacy, the only way we can,” Carlson said. “We can still be hopeful that he’s going to pull through it. The thing we can’t do is be there.”

SSM Health said nurses and doctors are working hard to take calls and update families frequently.