Susan Lucci (ex-Erica, All My Children) is helping those in crisis. Along with AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins and her own mother - Jeanette Lucci - the soap legend is sharing words of wisdom on how to keep the elderly safe from COVID-19. Nursing homes have been particularly hard-hit as of late.
In a chat with Harper's Bazaar, Lucci and Jenkins discussed how the actress is pairing with AARP to raise awareness for the challenges faced by nursing home, even hosting a tele-town hall on the topic.
Lucci shared her own journey:
My mother and I have always had a wonderful relationship. She is 103, and she was part of the greatest generation. I never wanted to be the daughter who dragged my mother kicking and screaming out of her home to an assisted living facility. My mother lived on her own until she was 98, and she was very capable and she loved living on her own. That was her wish. We hired nurses to be with her 24/7. But my mother is so spunky and she fired everybody we hired.
Fortunately, Mary, the daughter of her good friend, is a geriatric nurse, and spectacular one, not to mention a great human being. My mother trusted her and let her into her life. And that was a godsend for both my mother and for me, because my mother lives in Florida and I live in New York. But as 98, my mother had a couple of falls, two of them pretty serious—she broke the same hip twice. It became best for her medical health that my mother really shouldn't live on her own anymore. Mary put me in touch with the wonderful assisted living program in Florida. Now I'm lucky to have my mother in a facility where I can speak to her several times a week on camera, so she sees me and I see her. But my story is different than the ones we heard, and I want to help make sure everyone gets the kind of care my mother has.
This COVID-19 pandemic has caught people off guard with capacity and workload issues. It's not that nursing homes don't want to allow remote communication, I really think it's that they don't have the capacity or the equipment, which is so critical.
As Lucci advocates for her mother's generation, she remembered a time when her mom showed up for her:
What comes to my mind immediately is when I was 19, I was with my boyfriend at the time, driving on the expressway into the city on a Saturday night. The car in front of us stopped short, we crashed into it, and I went through the windshield. The police came to the accident site shining their flashlights, and I could overhear them talk about me sort of like I was in the past tense. So I knew that something serious had happened. The ambulance took me to the closest hospital right off the expressway. Because it was a Saturday night, the emergency room was very crowded. The nurse said to me, 'Oh, it's okay, honey. I'm sure he'll still marry you.' I think she meant to be comforting … . So I could gather that I was pretty banged up!
My parents arrived as the doctor was threading the needle to sew me up, but my mother was an OR nurse, and when she took one look at me, she could tell that I still needed some more attention. My parents insisted that they take me to another hospital near where we lived, which they did. I wound up being on the emergency operating table for four and a half hours while the surgeon took glass out of the gash above my eye. Had they not done that, had even one little sliver been left in there and could travel, I could have lost my eye. Through all of it, my mother never took her eyes off me. You don't forget that. You just don't forget.
And what is Mrs. Lucci (Senior)'s secret to being 103? Her soap star daughter shared:
I think my mother would tell you it's because she grew up in the Pocono Mountains and drank a lot of milk. I have very fond memories of watching my mother eat butter pecan ice cream right out of the container. My mother is part of the greatest generation, and so I think she has that strength and resilience and can-do attitude. But she's also an eccentric spirit, and I think that's a lot of it too—not taking things too, too seriously has allowed her to roll with the punches, and I admire that very much.