Updated: Sep 27, 2020
As I walk into my 6th assisted living community of the week, it is a familiar sight. There’s nobody in the hallways; it’s quiet, almost eerie. The check-in routine is the same at each community: I get my temperature checked prior to entering and I must have a mask on my face. Some places require more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as disposable masks and gloves. This is “the new norm” unfortunately.
I enter my residents’ rooms, and many of their faces light up due to someone different coming in to see them. They speak of boredom, depression, anxiety over the pandemic and sadness as many have not seen their families in 5 months. I wish there was more I could do, aside from providing a friendly face and a listening ear. Many residents are grateful they are alive and healthy. Some residents are frustrated and angry about being confined to their rooms 24/7. I validate their feelings of how difficult the situation must feel for them. I leave feeling grateful that I do not have to be confined to a room, but sad that there is not more that I can do for my clients. It’s difficult witnessing individuals, some I have known for over a year, deteriorate emotionally, and in some cases physically. Physical therapy has stopped in some communities. Due to being confined to small spaces, some residents are reporting muscle atrophy. They are sad that they cannot socialize and frustrated that this is something that nobody can control and there is no end in sight.
Some communities are not allowing providers in the building. I am able to speak with
some people over video chat or the telephone, but there is something lost with this form of
communication. In my experience, there is nothing like face to face contact with someone. We discuss boredom as there are no activities occurring right now in the communities. Many residents do not know if there are Covid 19 cases in their communities due to HIPPAA regulations. Some individuals are confused as to why they cannot leave their rooms, unaware of virus outbreak in their community. They fear that there will be an outbreak and they will get sick. They confide in me that they do not want to die of COVID-19.
These residents expect me to show up. They expect me to come to break up the
monotony of the day. We speak of positive affirmations, meditation, breathing techniques and ways they can entertain themselves in their room. Despite the enthusiasm I bring to the room, they know I will be leaving, and the visit will be short lived. A resident has described it as “the walls are closing in on me”. Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone. Places we all used to frequent are shut down; hair salons and gyms continue to be closed. Restaurants and grocery stores are accepting people at half capacity. We cannot see friends and family as readily and many of us are also feeling that sense of isolation. I feel that this pales in comparison to what the residents experience. Whenever I am feeling ungrateful or frustrated about the pandemic, I think of my clients and hope they are coping the best they can each day.
Kristin Harden, LCSW
Senior Health and Education Partners, PLLC