5 Ways to Stay Connected in the COVID-19 Pandemic
We are experiencing unchartered times. Yesterday, my 83-year-old father said that in his lifetime he had never experienced anything like this, even though he did remember living through the polio epidemic. Dad said he and his friends weren’t allowed to go to the pool or the beach, were constantly being warned by adults to be careful around others, but even then, he didn’t have fear of going out.
My dad is one of the most social people I know, and the idea that he can’t be around other people is dragging him down. Dad said he has never been afraid to go out in his long life, and he just can’t stand hearing the news every day telling him that he is highly vulnerable for catching COVID-19.
After my mom passed away a number of years ago, my dad came to live with my family. He is a family person, and living alone was very difficult for him. He was vulnerable then, but in a much different way. He didn’t know who he was without my mom. They had been married for 48 years, and his identity was directly linked to being a husband and a father. He learned at that time that there were friends and family who were there for him, and he also learned who was not. I will never forget the day he told me that one of the people in the couple’s dinner group had called him and said that he was no longer welcome in the group because he wasn’t part of a “couple” anymore. This hurt him in a way I cannot even describe.
At a point when he needed people to surround him and support him, this woman hurt him to the core. You see, my parents were the type of people who always accepted people into their lives especially when they were in their most vulnerable state. Our family brought strangers to our home who needed a hot meal, circled around those who had no family, and treated them as our own. We opened our house and hearts to so many; I can’t even remember them all. This is just what we do in our family. This is why I think Dad and I are feeling so helpless right now.
Like Dad, I am also in the vulnerable category. Five months ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and went through surgery and treatment. I am still not back to my normal self. Don’t get me wrong, I am feeling good, have a great prognosis, and had even started going back to the gym to regain my strength. I wasn’t feeling vulnerable, I was feeling stronger every day. But then, the coronavirus hit, and suddenly I am “vulnerable” and am asked to isolate, something that is completely against my human nature. My dad and I are typically the people who are out there helping others when they need it and really don’t like the idea that we are being told to stay home. We know this is the right thing to do and are definitely doing it, but we just feel so strange. Normally, I would be one of the first volunteers on the scene to help assisted living residents when their home was hit by the tornado on Sunday night in Chattanooga or visiting sick clients in the hospital who need assistance with discharge planning because they can’t go home by themselves. Instead, I have had to figure out different ways to connect with others during this time that do not include me being physically with them.
Below are some of the things I have been doing to stay connected with others while keeping my dad and me safe.
- We are using technology in new ways. I have learned to use Facetime on my phone and have Zoom meetings with colleagues and friends. I hadn’t even heard of Zoom videoconferencing before last month.
- My dad and I have started a video series called “Ask Poppa” that we post on Facebook and Youtube. I have always wanted to video some of my dad’s stories, but we never seemed to have time to sit down and just do it. Now that we are social distancing, we have lots of time together to do this. Friends and family are really enjoying watching me ask dad questions and document his stories. These are videos that our family and friends will cherish forever.
- I have gone back to good old-fashioned calling and sending notes in the mail. In my busy everyday life, it seems like I take less time than I should to reach out to friends and family for a good, intentional conversation. Now, I have reconnected with old friends and have enjoyed slowing down the pace.
- I have ordered pizzas for staff at health care and senior living facilities just to let them know I appreciate all they are doing for their patients and residents.
- I have been sewing face masks for friends and family to use when they go out.
Social distancing is a new thing for my dad and me, but for many elders in our community this is no different than any other day. I hope that when this pandemic is over, we all remember what it feels like to be vulnerable and isolated. If we remember that feeling, then maybe we will take the time to reach out to someone who needs a call or visit.
If you have questions about care coordination with a loved one at home or from a distance, please reach out to me. I’d be glad to help you.
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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings, and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. In some cases, the underlying legal information is changing quickly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Please contact your legal counsel for advice regarding specific situations.