I want to start this post by saying that I understand that COVID-19 is serious. I understand that health and safety are important. I understand that leaders have big decisions to make with a small amount of reliable information. So, as long as we are clear on all of that, you can continue reading.
A Special Woman
My mom’s mom, my “Grandma”, has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. She wasn’t a grandparent we saw occasionally on holidays; she was a mainstay in the big and small moments of our lives. Grandma is feisty, stubborn, and opinionated. She is also caring, compassionate, and kind. She amazed us all with her strength after my grandfather passed away. While she was indescribably sad about losing her husband of over sixty years, her faith and extroverted nature served her well as she did not allow herself to lose her will to live a full and purposeful life.
Grandma lived on her own for a while after my Papa died, but she did feel lonely. So, with the support of our whole family, she moved out of her house and into an independent living facility to ease some of the burden of being on her own. She thrived in her new home. She loved meeting and getting to know the staff and other residents. She was still able to leave as she pleased to go out to eat or get groceries, but she had someone to keep up with her medications and she did not have to worry about daily tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning.
Enter COVID-19. I’m not going to act like my grandmother has never been confused before, because that would be a lie. But, the havoc wreaked on her mind by being isolated during a global pandemic is nothing short of devastating. In the span of four months she went from being totally clear in her thoughts to being unable to understand where she was, why she was there, and why her husband and mother weren’t there with her.
I completely understand the need to keep our most vulnerable safe from the novel coronavirus. However, I would posit that there may be as many if not more elderly people suffering and even dying due to isolation than because of the virus itself. The regulations my grandmother is living under are not far above a prison. And that is because the facility where she resides is “following CDC protocol.” She is expected to eat alone, wear a mask all the time, stay indoors, have no visitors, and not even visit her friends in the same facility (although, being a rebel, she does break this rule from time to time.)
An Important Question
By no means am I saying that we should lift all regulations, but I do think there is a big question that needs to be asked. At what point does quality of life need to take priority over quantity of years? So many of our elderly cannot speak for themselves, and they are suffering right now!! Do I want my grandmother to contract COVID-19? Absolutely not! I was terrified when she had to be tested on a recent trip to the emergency room (after which she was mandated to 14 days of what is essentially solitary confinement). But, after our sixth phone call in a 20-minute span recently, I did seriously question if the intensity of these steps is worth it. She is confused. She is concerned. And our hands are tied. We, her family, are left to watch her grapple with this alone.
During the hospital visit I mentioned, my grandma was tested and checked for everything. She had CT scans, blood tests, and the aforementioned COVID test. Every single thing came back negative, including COVID. There is little physically wrong with her except acid reflux and restless leg syndrome. Alzheimer’s and dementia have been considered but both typically come on much more gradually than my grandmother’s current issues. All we can deduce is that she is suffering from delirium brought on by her current circumstances.
Love, Regardless of Distance
I don’t pretend to know the perfect solution to this scenario, but there is clearly a problem. And, if you are struggling as you watch an elderly friend or family member struggle, know that you are not alone ♥️
I also strongly encourage you to reach out to a local nursing home and ask if there is a way you can love their residents from a distance. Ask to send cards, paint windows, send flowers or treats, whatever you are allowed to do that could brighten the day of someone who is experiencing “social distancing” in the most extreme way.