Listen to Susan
Susan Lucci joined an AARP tele-town hall an to talk about caring for loved ones in long-term care facilities during the pandemic. Listen to a replay of the live event.
Susan Lucci's mother, Jeanette, remains a blessing at age 103. She's unfazed by coronavirus talk, taking the lockdown in her South Florida assisted living community in stride and embracing regular video visits with her daughter and son-in-law with a smile.
Her attitude and resilience are a consolation to Lucci, the Emmy-winning actress famous for her 41-year stint as the iconic Erica Kane on ABC's hit daytime drama All My Children. In normal times, Lucci, an only daughter, would make frequent trips from New York so they could spend time together.
The two have always been close, Lucci said, though they've had their moments, as mothers and daughters do. They'd watch early episodes of All My Children and laugh together knowingly when a 15-year-old Erica went at it with her mother, Mona.
To protect her mother's privacy, Lucci, 73, won't identify where Jeanette lives. But her experience has been positive, and Lucci is happy to sing the facility's praises, especially in light of the pandemic: the transparency of email updates; the vigilance with which the health of staff is monitored (temperatures taken daily); the seamless introduction of virtual visits, which she and her husband never had to request.
The head physician and nurses remain accessible. Only one person, a staff member, tested positive for the coronavirus but has not been there for more than two weeks, Lucci said. She knows her experience doesn't reflect the experiences of everyone with loved ones in long-term care. “We're hearing some terrible things,” she said. “But mine has been the opposite, and I think it's good to know that the opposite exists."
Finding the right assisted living community
Jeanette, whom Lucci described as “beautiful” and “spunky,” was an operating room nurse who became a stay-at-home mom once she had children. She threw herself into charitable work in their Long Island community and taught her two kids (Lucci's older brother passed away in January) about giving back by example.
Lucci's father died in 2002, and Jeanette lived on her own until age 98. “I never wanted to be the daughter or the child who dragged my mother out of her home kicking and screaming to assisted living,” Lucci said. Fortunately, it never came to that.
The pandemic’s death toll in long-term care facilities is surging toward 30,000, accounting for roughly a third of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. AARP is advocating for more transparency from nursing homes, for requiring the facilities to support tele-visits with loved ones, and against legal immunity for those facilities.