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WFAE's Social Distancing series looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, learn and connect with each other. The series is hosted by reporter Sarah Delia.

Social Distancing: No One Should Be Alone In The End


Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, all of our lives have changed in some way. Maybe that means you’re working from home for the first time or having to put off a major life event like a wedding or funeral.

In our series Social Distancing, WFAE’s Sarah Delia speaks with you, our listeners about the challenges you’re facing. WFAE is trying to do its best to work remotely, so the majority of this series, including the interviews, are being done from Sarah’s dining room table.

Credit Tammy Commisso
Tammy Commisso talks to her dad through a glass door at the nursing home where he lives.

In our latest installment, Sarah speaks to a woman who worries about what will happen to her mother who is several states away in hospice care.

Many of us are still trying to figure out what the new normal is when it comes to communicating with loved ones — especially if they are older and living in facilities that are currently shut out from the outside world. For 57-year-old Tammy Commisso of Fort Mill, South Carolina, visiting her father who lives in a nearby nursing home means utilizing high-tech hearing aids so they can talk even if they aren’t in the same room. 

"I have a little speaker that I can use for out in public," Tammy said. "If there are a lot of loud noises, it will pick up my voice and put it right in his hearing aids. So, he was on one side of the glass and I was on the other and I could talk to him and he could hear me."

But it’s more complicated when it comes to her 90-year-old mom, Margaret, who is receiving hospice care at a facility in Florida, where Tammy’s brother lives. 

"She says she’s ready to go, and I’m finally of at the point where I’m kind of ready to let her go, but I don’t want her to go during all this," Tammy said. "I would like for us all to be there, so it’s rough. If she gets coronavirus, she’s definitely a goner."

Tammy says her mother’s health has been on the decline for the last four years. There have been broken bones and issues with her heart and lungs, just to name a few. 

Under normal circumstances, Tammy visits her mom in person every few months. But since the outbreak of the coronavirus, that’s no longer possible. 

With the facility on lockdown, Tammy tries to call her mom often, but it’s hard. Margaret is sick and sleeps a lot. She doesn’t usually hear the landline in her room ring. 

Tammy has made peace with the fact that her mom, who she lovingly describes as a spirited 1970s, granola-eating, bra-burning mom, is closer to the end of her life than she has ever been before.

In fact, the family affectionately refers to her mom as the comeback kid. Every time her family thinks it’s the end, Margaret pulls through. 

Credit Tammy Commisso
Tammy's mom Margaret lives at a facility in Florida where she receives hospice care.

What Tammy can’t stop thinking about is the very real fact that if her mother passes away in the near future, she will die without any family present. That’s what happened to her mother’s roommate, Tiffany. 

"I shed a tear when my mom told me," she said. "She was super funny and witty and on point. She would joke around with me and she was pretty cool. My mom said as the people at the facility packed up her stuff, they found interesting things and they were talking about it, and my mom said she could tell that she was a woman that had traveled.

"It was sad. that bothered me a lot because that lady didn’t deserve that, and neither does my mom. It also bothered my mom. It kind of gave her the kick in the butt to get up and get moving again."

Tammy says so far there haven’t been any reported cases of the coronavirus at the center where her mom lives. And the hospice team has assured her that if Margaret takes a turn, they’ll be there with her till the end. And that’s a small comfort for Tammy. She’s not flying at this point. 

What Tammy does know is that her mother, Margaret, does have family — and family that wants to send her off together. She sighed and said, "I don’t think anyone should die alone without someone holding their hand."

WFAE wants to hear from you. If you’d like to share your story on the new challenges you’re facing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, give us a call and leave a voice mail. The number is 704-916-9114 We hope you and your loved ones are taking care. 

Click here for the latest coronavirus news on WFAE’s live blog.

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What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.


Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.