LouAnn Dagen, a 66-year-old woman in Michigan, spent days pleading for help from her Amazon Echo Show before she died of covid-19 on April 4, according to a new report from local NBC affiliate WFLA. Dagen lived at a nursing home where at least 31 residents and five staff have tested positive for the new coronavirus and three people have died.
The recordings from Dagen’s Alexa smart device were made public by her sister, Penny Dagen, who insisted that LouAnn would have wanted people to hear them.
“I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it,” one of the heartbreaking recordings said.
Many of the recordings seem to be focused on the amount of pain that Dagen was in and it’s not clear whether she was getting any medications to manage that pain. At one point, Dagen asked her device “How do I get to the police?” but the Alexa assistant simply provided directions to a police station.
The nursing home, identified as Metron of Cedar Springs, didn’t send Dagen to the hospital immediately because she didn’t have a fever, according to her sister. Metron of Cedar Springs recently changed its name to Mission Point, where at least three people have died of covid-19 in the past week, including 81-year-old Anna L. Russell and 96-year-old Maxine Pifer.
Penny Dagen said her sister had been short of breath early last week, but Metron told her that despite the COVID-19 infection, LouAnn Dagen did not have an elevated temperature.
“It wasn’t until Thursday that they started the saline solution because she was getting dehydrated,” Penny Dagen said. “She just kept saying, ‘I’m thirsty.’ She didn’t drink anything, though.”
Penny said her sister’s oxygen level and blood pressure dropped Saturday morning, prompting Metron to send her to the ER.
Dagen had underlying health conditions, including diabetes and hypertension, and had been in a nursing home for the past 10 years after suffering a stroke.
Nursing homes around the world have been hit hard by the new coronavirus, with some experiencing dozens of deaths in the past couple of months. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington has been connected with at least 37 deaths from covid-19 and the facility is expected to face steep fines for its handling of the crisis. The Pleasant View nursing home in Maryland has seen at least 98 people at that nursing home test positive for covid-19, with 17 deaths.
A nursing home in Riverside, California has 34 confirmed cases of roughly 80 residents and had to be evacuated by emergency personnel on Monday because the people who work there have decided not to show up. And a nursing home in Beaver County, Pennsylvania has 42 confirmed covid-19 cases and 5 deaths, and the managers there say that at this point they assume the entire population of 450 residents and over 300 staff are probably infected.
We’ll likely never know the true toll that covid-19 has had on America’s nursing homes, with some hospitals even refusing to treat elderly people in order to prioritize younger and healthier patients, according to the Washington Post.
Over 432,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. and 14,829 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins covid-19 tracker. And those numbers are only expected to rise in the coming days.
Some people, notably those on Fox News, are becoming impatient with social distancing measures and are arguing that everything should be opened back up in the name of the economy. But if you do a simple Google News search for “nursing home” you can see the real cost of that policy.
No one is having any fun with the extreme measures that we’re taking to control the spread of this virus. But the alternative is more pain and suffering, primarily amongst the elderly population—people who aren’t even afforded the dignity of a friend by their side as they die. Instead, they’re stuck asking a robot for pain medication that will never come.