The Coronavirus is kicking everyone’s butt. Of course, the concerns are not all health related. Yes, the highly touted medical experts on all the news shows speak at length about flattening the curve, sheltering in place, hand washing and sanitizing everything. It isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Beyond that are the emotional aspects of everyone putting their life on hold. Many younger people are very capable of keeping themselves busy inside their homes. But the elderly aren’t always that lucky. Many in nursing homes, assisted living centers, memory care units, and independent living apartment complexes depend on others to help them get through the day. They depend on others for stimulation, socialization and companionship. With this
Coronavirus sweeping everywhere, it is hard for them to get what they need. Family and friends cannot visit, routines are disrupted and depression sets in.
That pretty much sums up my parents. They live relatively close to me, one in assisted living and one in independent living. They have been married for 69 years, and although they don’t live together right now, they still depend on each other. Before Coronavirus restrictions, my father visited my mother for a few hours every day. It was their routine. Now they are relegated to trying to talk to each other on the phone.
At age 94 and 96, respectively, things are tougher now. My mom’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and she is excruciatingly hard of hearing. Both my parents use walkers and are slow on the uptake. Their world revolves around the bathroom and mealtime. They don’t have dementia per se, but this Coronavirus is making it difficult for them to understand why I can’t visit. Like the rest of us, they want to know how long the misery will last.
My father watches way too much news and wonders if medical triage and rationing will eventually extend to him. He tries not to be afraid, but his world is collapsing every day. He watches reports of hoarder’s panic-buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer and wonders if there will be any left when I go shopping for him. New rules state he cannot congregate with others. He can’t go to his favorite sing-alongs once a week. He has to eat meals alone in his apartment and he seems to be sleepier than usual. He calls me often about petty things and gets testy and impatient about others. “Why does the housekeeping lady have to turn the air conditioning on every time she comes to clean?” he asks, “why isn’t the wound on my leg healing? Is my shower lady going to be able to come to help me?” All questions I repeatedly try to answer in lengthy conversations.
I visit my mom by standing outside the first-floor window of her room at the assisted living facility and wave to her amidst the glare of the glass. We talk on the phone during these “visits” and try to act like this is normal. It does help to keep her grounded and connected, but she only understands a few words that I say despite having hearing aids in place.
I know the world is in crisis right now, and we have to be creative to stay connected, remain calm, and continue to live our lives. Thank goodness for the tech age in helping to keep in touch. I wish I could use it with my parents. They don’t Facetime, text, or email so it is mostly useless to me.
My parents have been through a lot in their lifetimes but nothing like this. The golden years are supposed to be golden, not a litany of one depressing thing after another. While it is hard for them to experience, it is harder to watch. And so, despite all the dire warnings and unsettling news, it is my job to prevent my parents from going off the edge. I do it without much thought because it is the right thing to do. I, like everyone else, hope this virus can be contained and eradicated so we can get back to some kind of normal.