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‘It feels like you’re in prison’: What it’s like to live in a nursing home during a global pandemic


About half of the COVID-19 deaths reported in Iowa are related to long-term care facilities.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Long-term care facilities across Iowa have strict guidelines in place to protect those most vulnerable from getting COVID-19

But are the protocols unintentionally hurting other aspects of residents’ health?

Suzanne Schrodt, who lives at a long-term care facility in Des Moines, said she thinks so.

From March until mid-October, she ate every meal inside her room.

“It feels like you’re in prison, honestly,” Schrodt said.

Schrodt said she understands why the facility is so strict, and said luckily, no one she lives with has gotten the virus.

“What they’re doing is right, but I know we have a lot of residents who are very depressed.”

Typically, her facility offers exercise classes, movie nights and other activities. But when the pandemic hit, staff canceled those activities.

“I think health is becoming a big issue here, just the lack of socialization and the lack of exercise,” Schrodt added.

Recently, she said the facility restarted an exercise class she likes so she’s able to get some movement in her day, but she said it’s frustrating to hear people outside these facilities complain about COVID restrictions.

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“People outside complain about being confined and stuff, but they can get out and get in their car and drive somewhere, you know? They’re not locked into their homes.”

Schrodt is able to leave her facility, but if she does, she has to quarantine for two weeks when she returns.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, the state reported 1,005 COVID deaths in Iowa were related to long-term care facilities.

That’s about half of the total deaths reported in the state.

According to the American Health Care Association, nearly half of all COVID cases nationwide are here in the Midwest. 

The percentage has been steeply rising since early August.

The south-central United States is the second highest. That region accounted for 22% of all long-term care COVID cases in the country.


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