A Eldersburg woman has been taking care of her mother for the past seven years, through cancer, a stroke and kidney failure. There was no way she could have prepared for caregiving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alecia Gaither, a wife and mother of twins, and her mother Joyce Williams live in Eldersburg and see each other every day. Before the pandemic, things were relatively simple and normal.
“My mother had a stroke so she’s not as mobile as she has been in the past so, I pretty much have to do most of her daily chores,” said Gaither. “I come, I help around the house, pick up her meal, take her to her appointments, buy her groceries, take out her trash. Recently, she just started receiving dialysis so now I’m the person who administers her dialysis."
Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaither has had to change things drastically to keep both her and her mother safe.
“The pandemic has made this exponentially difficult,” said Gaither. “Normally I would buy my groceries and her groceries, I would take my groceries home and then bring her groceries, put them away. Now, with the pandemic, I have to try to sanitize and disinfect everything for my own groceries and then I had to come here and do the same for her. When I’m in her home I wear a mask because she has other health issues that will make her vulnerable to the virus.”
Along with cleaning, disinfecting and wearing a mask constantly, Gaither has also had to carry her mother’s month supply of dialysis medicine into her home on her own now that they don’t want the delivery person coming in the house, possibly contaminating it.
“Before the pandemic, the delivery man would bring the boxes into her second bedroom, he would stock them against the wall and that was like three trips. He would just stack it against the wall,” said Gaither. “Now ‚since the pandemic, he can’t come into the apartment, he has to leave them at the door. So, now I have to carry those 30 to 40 boxes to her room and each box contains two bags of dialysate, which is the fluid that they use for dialysis and they’re six liters each.”
This is the most difficult part for Gaither because she is commonly weak and in pain from living with lupus.
“After I do that, I’m pretty much wiped out,” said Gaither. "In the morning I can’t even open a bottle of water, I’m weak from lupus and in pain from the lupus, I mean chronic pain.
Even though things have been hard, they spend time together watching “The Voice” and “American Idol.” They do their best to stay positive.
“She feels confident that she’s going to be OK,” said Gaither. “It’s hard for me to stay positive I’m trying because I have to be positive for my family but considering my own issues with lupus and the chronic pain and weakness is hard for me to put on a happy face all the time.”
In an effort to stay positive, Gaither did start a garden and tries to stay active because she doesn’t want her body to get weak and become immobile.
Not only does the pandemic affect how Gaither takes care of her mom but also how she will celebrate motherhood.
“I can’t even hug or kiss her. I still have to avoid close personal contact with her, but this I know for sure, once you’re a mother, you’re always a mother and you don’t need a special day to celebrate your mom," said Gaither. "It’s more special to celebrate her when she least expects it and social distancing doesn’t stop you from saying I love you.
"The best Mother’s Day gift for me is that my family is still here with me; my family circle is still intact and I am thankful.”
Guzzo has been doing minor things for her mom, who resides at Winifred Manor, for the past two years but for the most part her mother can still do plenty of things on her own.
“The last few years, my mom lost her eyes, she’s considered legally blind," said Guzzo. “She has macular degeneration, so when that happened, I kind of had to step in and help her with just grocery shopping and her finances and things like that.”
Providing care for her mom changed to Guzzo once the pandemic started because she and her family had to keep their distance from her mom.
“Once COVID started, the goal was just to keep our distance from her because we didn’t know if we were infected and we didn’t want to go ahead and bring the virus into her house,” said Guzzo.
Now to help her mom from a distance, for example, Guzzo’s son will have her leave her trash outside her door so he could go over with a mask and gloves and take out her trash without entering her home or making contact.
According to Guzzo, her and her family try not to go into her house at all during this period.
Deliveries for Carroll Cares involve no physical contact, just like how Guzzo is with her mother. When they shop for the residents, they leave everything outside their apartment door when they drop it off.
Guzzo’s mother has recently been hospitalized, following an incident that wasn’t COVID-19 related.
“That’s been the hardest part, that was like my worst nightmare is not to be able to be in there with her but they will not allow us in,” said Guzzo.
Guzzo often calls the hospital now to speak with her mom and said that she communicates more with her now.
These daughters are doing what they can to keep their mothers safe during the pandemic, even when that means keeping their distance. Yet, both still are frequently adapting and finding ways to help and keep their family members safe.