News Story

Family Says Clumsy COVID Orders, Isolation, Caused Dad’s Decline And Death

William Hall Jr. of Southeast Michigan died in a nursing home in August, in a death attributed to sepsis. But his family says the real reason William Hall Jr. died when he did was that a horror show of neglect made possible by state government anti-COVID restrictions allowed his condition to be hidden from those who loved him.

William Hall III of Romulus said his 82-year-old father went into rapid decline during the spring and summer, at a time when visitors were barred from the nursing home. The only outside contact he was allowed was by telephone or through the window of his room.

As his father’s ability to communicate by phone dissipated, Hall III said, he was left alone, suffering from tennis ball-sized bedsore wounds that his family was unaware of.

“The last time I got to hug him was in February,” Hall III said. “Until I got to hug him when he was in the hospital unconscious. I should have been able to hug him every week.”

He blames both the nursing home, Medilodge of Milford, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for imposing what he called nonsensical restrictions that harmed the very people they were purported to protect.

“Whitmer thinks she can do anything she wants without any kind of accountability,” he said.

Michigan’s nursing home policies during the coronavirus pandemic have been controversial almost from the beginning. Whitmer’s administration has been accused of ordering nursing home patients with COVID-19 returned to facilities ill-prepared to deal with the outbreak.

But William Hall Jr.’s death illustrates another potential shortcoming of broad-based anti-pandemic government orders. Hall didn’t contract COVID-19; he suffered from dementia and assorted other ailments.

His wife, also frail and elderly, is in assisted living and was unable to visit, Hall III said, so the primary task of supporting and visiting his father fell to him.

But after Whitmer’s initial emergency lockdown orders in March, he was denied all access to his father for almost three weeks, he said. After that, he could see his father, but only through the nursing home window.

Nationally, many health care experts have warned about the perils of isolation, loneliness and despair among nursing home residents who have been cut off from the outside world by COVID restrictions. Michigan officials have acknowledged those concerns.

But at the same time — citing the vulnerability that the infirm elderly in confined living facilities have to the virus — the state has enacted some of the nation’s strictest guidelines on nursing home patient contact.

Those guidelines were eased in October, allowing for scheduled visits for those willing to undergo COVID screening, with close contact limited to 15 minutes. But with November bringing a surge in new cases, the restrictions have been reimposed in most instances.

Hall III said it was Michigan and Medilodge restrictions that precluded his family from discovering his father’s deteriorating condition.

Medilodge media director Bill Gray declined to comment when reached by Michigan Capitol Confidential.

“We are not participating in any media inquiries at this time,” he said. “We are concentrating on taking care of our residents and our employees during the pandemic.”

Whitmer’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Hall III said he filed a complaint with state nursing home regulators and was told last week that Medilodge Milford will be cited for violating health care standards. A spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said the facility is under investigation but declined further comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.