Seniors in nursing home isolation as staffers get sick, while families wait to visit them

Kim Brancato, an administrative assistant at FOX 2 - hasn't seen her elderly mother in over a year. 

Residents at Martha T. Berry Medical Facility in Mount Clemens have been vaccinated - but staff members, who are choosing not to be, or haven't yet, are becoming infected. This is preventing families from visiting for two weeks at a time.

"It's hard, I do miss her," Brancato said. "I hope someone tests negative. If they test positive we have to wait all over again."

With Covid cases surging, Macomb County is above the 10 percent positive rate, which means no one can visit except through a window. For Brancato's mom who suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia, it only makes it worse.

"So I've done one window visit with her and she got mad and threw a box of Kleenex because she didn't understand why I couldn't be in there with her, inside with her," Brancato said.

"The rest of the community is looking at a resurgence," said Kevin Evans. "There is no silver bullet, so it is a lot more complicated than it's the staff's fault."

Evans is the executive director at the facility. He says has been challenged since the beginning of the pandemic.

Evans says more than 500 directives have been given at the federal and state level that don't always line up. Long-term care facilities still face the strictest regulations forcing staff and residents to be tested twice a week. Even if there is a false positive - he says they are forced to shut down where the infections occurred.

"It has been quite a challenge and some of the families understandably frustrated," Evans said. "We would like permission to let us do our job, and balance that with a resident-centered approach to let people come in."

FOX 2 administrative assistant Kimberly Brancato, inset: her mother.

FOX 2 administrative assistant Kimberly Brancato, inset: her mother.

That's because Evans says, unlike last year, facilities are now equipped with PPE and have systems in place to handle Covid infections, which is taking less of a toll than isolating residents.

"There are some common sense things that the state and the feds can do because we have a much better handle on things," he said. "I believe the one-person rule is incredibly overdone now, especially with all of the residents being vaccinated."

Because for some families, time is running out.

"My mom is going to be 86 years old," Brancato said. "I don't know how much longer she will be around."