The daughter of a 95-year-old woman who had been on lockdown at Rosecastle of Zephyrhills Assisted Living & Memory Care in Florida said that her mother did not "die from a heart attack, or a stroke ... She didn't die from old age ... My mother died from long-term isolation. That is what killed her."
Rita Thomas had reportedly filled her days with a strong routine, including dining out at restaurants, playing bingo and cards, going for a walk every day, and visiting every weekend with her daughter, family and friends.
This all changed when on March 13, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Agency for Health Care Administration ordered that visits be banned from nursing homes and assisted living facilities in an effort to stifle the spread of the coronavirus. Though many homes made exceptions for those who were living there, Thomas' home resisted this, according to the Miami Herald.
Thomas's family accepted the protocols at first, with Thomas having a weak immune system on top of having just recovered from a stroke and minor surgery making her vulnerable to the virus.
And as the rest of the state began to open again, the lockdown and isolation continued at Florida's elder-care homes.
Thomas' daughter, Linda Gardner, said: "She said to me: 'Linda. I've had a good life. I am ready to die. I don't want to live this way anymore. I stopped eating,'" recalling a conversation she had with her mother in August. It was just weeks later that Thomas was hospitalized for complications from malnutrition.
"Sometimes she'd say something like: 'I just don’t understand. Why are they doing this to us?'" Nan Thomas, Rita's younger daughter, said. "We kept hoping they were going to open the doors and I would be able to bring her to my house again, and we'd go out to eat, get her strong."
"I truly hold the governor and his medical advisers responsible for my mother's quick decline and her pending death," Thomas wrote to the Herald, just days after bringing her mother home to die as opposed to leaving her in the hospital.
The Herald reported: "Early in the pandemic, his [DeSantis'] emergency officials directed personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing kits to facilities. But he has also drawn criticism from advocates for his inconsistent and incomplete testing policy at long-term care facilities, waiting more than three months to require regular testing of staff, despite evidence they were the primary source of infection. And, starting this month, his Agency for Health Care Administration will no longer require staff at assisted living facilities like Rosecastle to be tested regularly for the contagious disease."
As a result, the vivacious 95-year-old willed herself to die just two weeks ago because she could no longer handle the pandemic-imposed isolation.