Pandemic can't fracture bond between Springettsbury mother and daughter

Dawn J. Sagert
York Dispatch

Donna Bortner fills a bird feeder outside of her mother’s bedroom window every couple of days. She doesn’t live far from ManorCare Health Services-Kingston Court, where her mother, Janet Seitz, 89, became a resident following an illness just over a year ago.

“I come down every couple days and I tap on the screen,” said Bortner. “I’m glad that she’s close to me and I can communicate with her.”

Janet Seitz also suffers from dementia.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines went into effect, Bortner would enjoy the visits with her mother while sitting with other residents on the patio or other open areas because her mother loves being outdoors.

The elderly are at especially high risk from the respiratory infection, according to health experts. Over the past month, nursing homes throughout the country have limited visitations or banned them outright in an attempt to stem the virus's spread. 

“When we do have good weather, I’ll take her for a ride,” Bortner said.  The two would often end up on the back patio of Bortner’s home watching the animals.

The visits are a little shorter these days, and she and her mother are separated by a window screen and a pane of glass, but their relationship is unwavering.

“She thought I was sick and I was afraid I was going to make her sick,” Bortner said of the first of their newly formatted visits, but added, “She’s really accepted it well. She’s just really glad to see me outside the window.”

“She’s just so easy to please because she’s just so grateful that we come and see her. She’s so happy for it. Dementia’s really hard because you don’t know what to expect.”

Bortner says she appreciates the dedication of the staff at ManorCare, and that her mother tells her she’s happy there.

“It’s hard and I know it’s happening all over the place and my heart goes out to the people that come in here and put their own lives in jeopardy every day trying to take care of people and make sure they’re safe.”

Donna Bortner visits her mother Janet Seitz, 89, through her window at ManorCare Health Services-Kingston Court in Springettsbury Township.

As of Monday, 12,980 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed in Pennsylvania, according to the state Health Department, a day-to-day increase of 1,470.  So far, the coronavirus has killed 162 people in Pennsylvania. 

More than 330,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 9,654 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 1.2 million cases have been confirmed globally, killing at least 70,500 people. 

Seitz’s room is decorated with birds and photos of the things that she loves — one of them being the ocean.

Bortner added, “I try to decorate for the holidays, but she’s going to be stuck with Valentine's Day forever.”