Grief, worry, hope, and kindness

“And I hate to say it, but the way it seems is that no one is fine. Take the time to peel a few layers and you will find true sadness.” – The Avett Brothers, True Sadness

At the end of January, Will and I suffered the loss of a beloved pet. After talking with friends, we found out that three of them also recently had pets reach the end of their lives. Some lost people in their family as well. Some, like me, are worried about family who are sick.

We are living in a time of profound loss, punctuated by a deadly pandemic, and often pressured to hide our true feelings. There are too many people who feel justified in mocking the worry and grief of others, but it is okay to worry, and it is necessary to grieve. If someone else is so broken that they cannot empathize, that is their problem.

This past weekend, my aunt came for a visit. She works in a nursing home in another part of the state and had her second vaccination for COVID a couple of weeks ago. While here, she visited a family member who had COVID awhile back and is currently in hospice. This family member is actually doing a lot better now and remembers very little about being in the hospital for COVID. She caught COVID as the result of the irresponsible staff at the assisted living center she stayed at following a still undiagnosed health event that left her unable to walk.

While there are so many healthcare workers who deserve to be celebrated, the pandemic has made it glaringly apparent that there are others who should seek a different line of work. I have been witness to some healthcare professionals flaunting their disregard for patients on social media where they post pictures of their unmasked smiling faces at a bar or the type of large social gathering that we are all told to avoid.

I have another family member who is at an assisted living center where the staff are behaving responsibly and operating with an abundance of caution. This family member has dementia. Her doctor advised that she should be in a nursing home that offers memory care, and yet the nursing homes in the area that offer that have said that she doesn’t meet the criteria. It is baffling.

There is so much that just doesn’t make sense right now when it comes to care facilities for the elderly. I ask, is it this way due to the pandemic? I have urged other family members to contact our local Aging and Disability Resource Center to speak with a resource specialist. Maybe they could help with getting some answers.

The pandemic has lead me to see shortcomings in even the best assisted living centers and nursing homes. Family are often called last minute by staff to shop for supplies that a resident needs. These places bill for everything, so why can’t they just maintain a PX of sorts, a small “store” that keeps a supply of items a resident may need? The items could be ordered by residents and delivered to their rooms.

Would it have been so difficult for assisted living centers to order toilet paper for residents instead of forcing them, their friends, or family to risk catching the virus by looking at multiple stores during the shortage that occurred last year? These places could have installed the large toilet paper dispensers that are typically used at places of business in residents’ bathrooms. They could have purchased some of the stockpile of that type of toilet paper. There is still an over abundance of this product as many people continue to work from home. Assisted living centers and nursing homes have purchasing options that the regular consumer does not.

I am hoping that the problems with long term care facilities that have come to be seen due to the pandemic get rectified. In addition to grief and worry, there exists hope. There is hope because there needs to be. If someone tells you it is naive to be hopeful, don’t listen to them.

After several days of high temps in the single digits, I went outside on a day where the temperature was above 20 degrees and felt the sun on my face. The pandemic is a lot like a harsh winter; it can seem, at times, like nothing is going to get better. We do what we have to do and make it through, and that includes grieving, worrying, hoping… but it also includes taking necessary precautions.

The person who sees wearing a mask as too much of an inconvenience is likely the same person refusing to keep the tap on overnight to prevent the pipes from freezing. Sure, they might not get sick just like their pipes might not freeze, but why risk it?

Do what you need to do for yourself and those you love. Stay safe, stay warm, and be kind… including to yourself.