Deborah Birx Admits Seeing Depressed Elderly Parents on Holiday Trip

Deborah Birx Admits Seeing Depressed Elderly Parents on Holiday Trip

Deborah Birx says that she will retire shortly because of the backlash she faced after her Thanksgiving trip to see her elderly parents.

Birx’ Thanksgiving Trip

Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, went from Washington D.C. to Delaware over Thanksgiving, despite her own advice to stay home. The day after Thanksgiving, she joined with three generations of her family.

Birx’ Holiday Trip Claims

She first claimed that she went to Fenwick Island, Delaware, to winterize a home owned there and prepare it for sale. On December 24, 2020, she changed her statement, saying that her trip was to see her aging parents, who she says had stopped eating and drinking because they felt depressed.

Who Was on The Delaware Holiday Trip?

Birx, who owns a home in Washington D.C. and another in Potomac, Maryland, admits that she was with her daughter, son-in-law, a grandchild who lives in a separate house along with her husband. Birx even went so far as to argue that her daughter and her family, who live in a different home, were part of her immediate family. She says that her daughter had not left her house in 10 months and that her parents were depressed.

Backlash From Isolated Families

The backlash from other families who have gone without seeing their loved ones has been swift. Many families have not seen their institutionalized loved ones since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service issued guidance that states followed to keep out all non-essential workers on March 13, 2020.

The Effects of Social Isolation

While some states instituted essential caregiver plans in the late summer, most families will not see their loved ones during the winter holidays. As was the case with Dr. Birx’ family, many who have become socially isolated face severe medical issues because of the isolation, even if they did not have COVID. While authorities like Dr. Birx suggested that families visit through closed windows and use technology to connect with their family members, that has not worked for many. Some bedfast nursing home residents are on upper floors with no windows while others can no longer communicate verbally to use technology. Further compounding the problem, the rules implemented by federal and state authorities forced many of them to stay in their rooms as the need to socially distance canceled communal dining and social activities.

Failure to Thrive

According to the AARP, social isolation can lead to failure to thrive diagnosis where the person gives up the will to live. They say that those who feel socially isolated have a 50% greater chance of developing dementia, a 32% increased chance of having a stroke, and a 400% greater chance of dying from a heart attack. Many residents, particularly those with dementia, were unable to understand why their families vanished.

Not Just the Elderly

Dr. Birx says that her daughter had not left her house for the last 10 months until she made that Thanksgiving trip. Families are quick to point out that is the case with many of their loved ones. Stephanie Kirby Evans was not allowed to see her son Petre who lives at the Denton, Texas, State Supported Living Center from March 13, 2020, until Governor Abbott instituted an essential caregiver plan on September 24, 2020. During that time, she was only allowed to see her son on four occasions when his self-injurious behaviors became so severe that the staff transported him to the emergency room. While Petre is 28 years old, Stephanie says that she can tell during her visits that this adult who she adopted as an infant from Romania no longer trusts her as much.

Families Separated Until Death

Other families have reacted to Dr. Birx’ Delaware visit with anger because they have not been allowed to be with their loved ones during their last moments on earth. Others have had to tell their loved ones through closed windows about deaths in their immediate families without anyone to comfort them.

Others Quick to Come to Birx’ Aid

Others, like Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University’s law school, says that he is confident that the doctor took proper precautions to protect herself and her family. Yet, he admits that sending mixed messages is not a good idea during this time when everyone must pull together.

Dr. Birx says she will delay her retirement to help the new administration get settled in their roles if they are put into power.

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