Well, let me just be honest. I have enjoyed a slower pace of life and fewer obligations these past couple months. But while I have had to sacrifice precious little during this pandemic, there is a team of people that I trust and appreciate doing more than their fair share in the midst of a pandemic. I am blessed that my mom is at an assisted living facility that has taken this very seriously from the beginning and imposed measures to keep their residents healthy. I am sure they receive “feedback” about it, but I am grateful they have erred on the side of safety and hope they continue in the face of Florida’s recent spikes in Covid-19 cases.
I know my mom does not understand why this is all necessary. She neither reads the paper nor watches the news. I know that she is tired of the 4 walls in her 324 sq ft apartment. She was clever enough to fracture her pelvis in 3 places in the first week of quarantine back in March. Not badly enough to need surgery, but just badly enough to require rehab for the past 2 months, so unlike many residents she had visitors in the form of physical and occupational therapists weekly. My mom is a crafty one, and such a planner!
I used to see her once a week. Now we talk by phone every few days. Thankfully with the occupational therapist, I get to do video calls with her on occasion. Early on I joked with a staff member about sending “proof of life” photos of my mom, the hostage, which I do receive periodically. She was low on laundry detergent, so I took the opportunity of dropping that off to also drop off a bouquet of flowers. She does not like pie for dessert, so I baked her some of her favorite cookies for Mother’s Day. Her birthday was late May so we had a fun outing to the ophthalmologist! We needed to finally see if the injections she received previously are doing any good to restore vision in her left eye after a blood pressure spike affected her retina, but we could not go in April because she was still not able to really bear weight due to the pelvic fractures and things were super uncertain with having someone poking around her mucosal linings. She had to go back into strict quarantine after leaving the facility, but an outing of any caliber was worth it.
A friend and I do a prayer walk (literally just walking around the building outside praying for the staff, residents and families) when we can. The staff has been doing all kinds of fun things to keep the residents entertained and in good spirits. Everything from dressing up like the Easter Bunny to deliver meals to creating dance videos with residents to send to the families. A friend sent my mom a card and her coveted word searches to keep her occupied. I gave my mom a stuffed hamster to keep her company since my own stuffed hamster cannot visit her except by video call. I am grateful that before this insanity I had established a relationship with several of the staff members and I know I can trust them to make good decisions. I am thankful that my mom’s doctor is responsive to the patient portal messages I send, so that I know that if things go off the rails like they did a couple weeks ago, they will be addressed.
I appreciate that the staff at this facility has been conscientious about precautions and so kind about attending to my mom. Although she was definitely sick of not seeing her friends at meals and having to stay confined to her room, I know the reality of what they have been facing could be so much more dire. This week, the facility has gone out of their way to work out logistics so that they could go back to some form of communal dining. This is surely a nightmare for the staff to escort folks down individually so that there are not too many people in the common areas and elevators simultaneously. There are shifts each meal so that instead of the old 6 person tables, they are each at 2 person tables. The benefits are immeasurable, however, in terms of three daily walks to and from the dining room, the comfort of seeing their friends are healthy and socialization even in masks, and the psychological perks of a change of scenery. All of these improve their appetite, physical and mental health. So, even though it is probably a huge undertaking, I am so grateful that they are working it out.
So, if you have little kids at home and have a loved one in a facility, send them some coloring pages by snail mail. Or find out what that facility’s guidelines are for deliveries of treats or flowers. Or how you can participate in an upcoming event like a car parade or silent auction. Because the residents need to know they are not forgotten and the staff needs an “attaboy” for all they are doing on behalf of family that cannot be there.
Anita is the founder of Family Link and wants to share with you some tools and thoughts to help you with the complex responsibility of managing the care of aging loved ones while still managing the other aspects of your life.