Woman couldn't say goodbye to mom who died from coronavirus at New Jersey nursing home

Nursing homes see mounting coronavirus deaths
Nursing homes see mounting coronavirus deaths... 02:49

More than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide are trying to stop the coronavirus from sweeping through the most vulnerable population. Not being able to visit their loved ones in these facilities has put many families in difficult situations.

Alix Handy suddenly lost her 86-year-old mother, Lona Erwin, a week ago. The great-grandmother died from COVID-19 along with eight others at a New Jersey nursing home. There was no time to say goodbye.

"The fact that she passed away, I can accept that, but the fact that I didn't get to say goodbye is still what's eating me up inside," Handy told CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver. 

Across the country, COVID-19 has created a crisis at nursing home facilities. More than 100 residents and staff tested positive at a Tennessee rehabilitation center. Outside Baltimore, 77 seniors tested positive at one facility. In western Massachusetts, 11 veterans who lived at a home for soldiers died, including five who had tested positive for the virus.

"What we need to avoid is literally turning nursing homes into our killing fields," said Dr. Michael Wasserman, the president of California Association of Long Term Care Medicine.

Nationwide long-term facilities house three times the number of patients U.S. hospitals do. Wasserman said more buildings need to be turned into skilled nursing facilities for seniors with COVID-19.

"If we push older adults out of hospitals and ICU's into nursing homes that will be overwhelmed, in three to four weeks the problem will be 10 times greater," he said.

Wasserman's dire prediction is one that families are worried about.

"It's kind of scary. You don't know what you're sending them into," said Cathy Konciak, whose husband, Edward, is recovering from the virus in the hospital. He was in a nursing home after suffering a brain injury and needs around-the-clock care.

"I'm just really going to have to bring him home because I can't trust anybody," Konciak said. 

In their 40 years of marriage, Konciak said she's never gone this long without seeing him.

"I just can't imagine what's happening to him and how he's being treated and whether people are doing the right thing," she said.