The People is our section for all opinions concerning Black Chicago. In this piece, Marcus Day writes about his mother, who is diagnosed with dementia and has been living in a nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Submit your opinion to

My mom went into a nursing home just before the pandemic. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2008 and for 10 years I was her legal guardian and caregiver. When she eventually had to move into the home in October 2019, we thought it was the best choice. She would be looked after and monitored by a professional staff who could meet her growing medical needs better than my brother and me. We planned to visit weekly, taking her out to dinner and movies to make sure she didn’t feel forgotten.

Then COVID-19 hit.

We haven’t been able to visit her since the summer of 2020. The nursing home is on full lockdown — and will be until further notice. Although this eases my mind about my mom’s safety, it’s her mental health that worries me. Her dementia is mild, something for which I was always grateful, but it has made her stay at the home even lonelier. 

She is on a floor with patients in far worse condition than herself. The number one thing that she complains about when we have our weekly Zoom calls is how bored she is. 

“I don’t have anyone to talk to,” she says. “I just sit here and look out the window and watch television…and I don’t like the food.” Every week she tells me the same thing and every time I have to fight back tears. I usually fail.

The pandemic has made everyone feel more isolated than ever before. This is true for none more than the elderly. I’ve heard so many horror stories of nursing home residents being abused and neglected by the staff and abandoned by their relatives. 

Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case for my mom. The staff is small, but dedicated. Every time I call, they recognize my voice and tell me about all the funny stories my mom tells them about me and my brother. She hasn’t been abandoned, but thanks to the pandemic, she still feels just as alone. It keeps me up at night thinking of her sitting alone in a strange room, surrounded by strange people with only the T.V. for company. And there’s nothing I can do about it. 

But she refuses to let me despair. Dementia or no dementia, she can always tell when I’m down.   

“You need to stop worrying so much,” she said, seeing the look on my face over Zoom. “They take good care of me here. All I need is to know you and your brother are doing safe.”

“We are,” I said.

“Then what is there to be sad about?”     

“We miss you.”

“Well, I miss you too, but worrying about something you can’t change is as good as trying to chase the wind. The good Lord has blessed me with two healthy boys who look in on me from time to time. And I got my health. I can’t ask for more than that.”

Sometimes it’s easy to forget she has dementia. 

This time the tears flowed freely. I knew she wouldn’t remember this conversation the next time we talked. It didn’t bother me, because I also knew I might need to hear it again. 

Having a parent with dementia sometimes feels like the roles have reversed. They become the child and you have to support and protect them. You have to have all the answers. Every now and again, however, for the briefest of instants, I have my mom back. She looks at me through the screen and I am a nervous child again as she speaks soft words to assuage my fears. Moments like this make me feel like sooner or later the smoke will clear. 

I spoke to my mom on Zoom the other day. She poked her tongue out and told me I need a haircut. I look forward to when the lockdown has ended and I can give her the biggest hug she’s ever gotten.

is a freelance writer from the Auburn Gresham area. He writes fiction and nonfiction, mostly centering on or set in Chicago.