Outbreak Wisconsin: ‘I Grieve For The Time That’s Being Wasted’

Trapped In Her 'Compartment' By The Coronavirus, Nursing Home Restrictions Chafe At 85-Year-Old Beverly Blietz

85-year-old Beverly Blietz unexpectedly found her movements restricted due to her age, the virus, and the rules of the independent living facility where she lives in Sister Bay, Wis. Photo Courtesy Of Beverly Blietz

Last summer Beverly Blietz spent her spare time driving for Uber in the northern Wisconsin tourist mecca of Door County. She shuttled visitors between hotels, bars and restaurants, and said she absolutely loved talking to people while driving them around. At the time, she was 84.

She described her Uber experience in a text message as “SO MUCH FUN!!”

This summer looks markedly different for Blietz, who unexpectedly found her movements restricted — due to her age, the virus, and the rules of the independent living facility where she lives in Sister Bay.

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Blietz, 85, moved into an independent living apartment at Scandia Village in November 2018 to be close to her husband, who had been admitted to the skilled nursing facility that May for around-the-clock care. The switch from their four-bedroom house on 12 acres to a 680-foot “compartment” — as she calls it — was a huge lifestyle change. Her husband died last year. They had been married for 65 years.

She said the adjustment to widowhood was hard, but because she could still drive and was mostly independent, she still felt like she had her freedom.

When the pandemic arrived, that all changed.

“I learned for the first time that my so-called ‘independent living arrangement’ is indeed governed by nursing home rules. I’m not only quarantined, but my environment is completely locked down, and the freedom I’d hoped and planned for, was not to be.”

Since the pandemic hit, isolation has set in. All group activities and meals were canceled, and visitation is restricted to “essential” visitors. There are daily health screenings for all residents and employees. No more running out for errands: Groceries and prescriptions are picked up by volunteers and delivered to residents’ doors. For those who can’t drive, there is no way to leave.

The restrictions remain in place even though Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” orders have been lifted. The rules have been particularly challenging for Blietz, who is used to a lot of human contact, including with her daughter who lives 10 minutes away.

“I’m a hugger. I hug trees, animals, strangers. And, I tell people I love them because loving others is something that makes me feel loved,” she said.

Blietz understands the restrictions and said she appreciates the staff at Scandia. Still, she thinks about how many years she has left and how much the lockdown has diminished her quality of life.

“While I’m realizing that life will never be the same for anyone, I worry about how many days remain for me on earth, and I grieve for the time that’s being wasted, and my opportunities that are lost.

She battles mood swings. Sometimes she has trouble sleeping. She said it’s hard not having something to look forward to.

“At the outset, my resentment knew no bounds, even as I’m aware of why. The leash just doesn’t fit. I keep telling my adult children that while we don’t have control over the virus, we do have control over our attitude towards our circumstances.

“I practice what I preach. Getting control of myself and my disappointment is very challenging. And I’m really tired of reminding myself to act like a grownup.”

Editor’s note: Outbreak Wisconsin is a collaborative project by Wisconsin Watch and WPR following Wisconsin residents as they navigate life during the coronavirus pandemic. The residents will contribute diary entries, in the form of audio, video, text, drawings and photos of themselves, their families and personal and professional lives. That content will be supplemented by interviews and digital content to provide a full picture of how the pandemic is affecting all aspects of life in Wisconsin.