The thing Amanda Miha remembers most about her father is his sense of humour.
“Dad was larger than life,” Ms Miha said.
“Even when he was non-verbal, he was still laughing, still joking with the nurses.”
Tas Mihalakopoulos, 88, suffered from dementia, and had been living in an aged care facility in Melbourne’s south-east since last October.
Mr Mihalakopoulos died with coronavirus early on Monday morning, less than two weeks after being diagnosed.
He’s one of more than 280 aged care residents in Victoria who have died with the disease since the start of the pandemic.
Ms Miha said she watched her father’s condition steadily deteriorate in the days following his diagnosis, through Skype.
“First, he lost his taste and smell. On the sixth day the doctor heard crackling in his lungs,” Ms Miha said.
“By the eighth and ninth day, he was no longer responding to his name.”
Twelve days after first presenting symptoms, Mr Mihalakopoulos passed away.
“We all die, but not like this. A long and drawn-out death, over f**king Skype.”
Residents are ‘sitting ducks’
In the days following her father’s diagnosis, Ms Miha started a Twitter account with the single goal of documenting her distress over her father’s situation.
She believes her father was infectious days before being officially diagnosed, and insufficient PPE may have caused workers to inadvertently spread the virus between residents.
“I’ll forever wonder if they were actually wearing proper N95 masks, if this could have been minimised somewhat,” she said.
“And not only N95 masks before the outbreak, but also when my dad was infectious but not yet confirmed … I’m concerned that those nurses were then going to negative patients after seeing, tending to my dad.”
Ms Miha says at the time she felt “desperate” and pleaded with a manager at the aged care facility to have workers wear masks, but was told they were following government guidelines.
Mandatory face masks for aged care facilities were introduced on July 13, but Ms Miha said they should have been brought in earlier.
“In the middle of July, we had triple digits, we were already in lockdown in Melbourne, and we still didn’t have mandatory masks in aged care facilities where we knew huge amounts of people were suffering,” Ms Miha said.
“And I was thinking, these residents are just sitting ducks.”
The ‘person behind the numbers’
Despite her father’s death, Ms Miha has nothing but praise for the “amazing” and “emotionally invested” nurses who cared for him during his final days.
She says there are misconceptions about aged care residents and believes there’s a general disregard for elderly lives.
“I think there’s a sense of, a definite sense that dying is inevitable,” Ms Miha said.
“But I want people to realise that my dad didn’t want to die, and a lot of people are in the same position as him.”
Ms Miha says she wants people to remember that there’s a “person behind the numbers”.
“All of the family remember my dad as somebody who would do anything for you,” she said.
“It’s why, throughout all of this, I’ve fought so hard for him. Because he would have done exactly the same.”