I have to admit. This Revisionary Gerontologist hasn’t had the words to talk about this pandemic and this crisis. To be honest, it has almost felt wrong to share my meager reflections when people are dying and in pain.
Yes. And. I was finding that the lack of words was becoming agitation. In my experience, behind agitation are feelings. Usually, these are feelings that need to be expressed in some way.
I don’t know about you, but I feel many things right now, because I see so many people suffering in so many different ways. And it is very close to home. I see how this pandemic is especially impacting older people in our communities, at every level. I see how nursing homes and other care communities are struggling, with limited or no resources. Yet, the people working in care communities show up every day. And they keep caring for our neighbors, our parents, our siblings, our friends.
“These are my people!” I want to shout.
“They need help!” I want to scream.
How do we help them? I say to myself.
I hope we care about them? I whisper in especially low moments.
I might not have adequate words for what is happening right now. I know they will come eventually. But I do have feelings about it. Maybe you do too.
I say these things from the comforts of my home, where I quarantine with my husband.
So, I have guilt.
Guilt about all these amazing people out there caring for people living in care communities. I used to be one of them, and I am not now. I have guilt that I have not been able to make things better for them, after all these years of trying to change the culture of long-term care and how we see and support those who live and work in this culture.
So, I feel helplessness. What can I do? Is there anything to do? Who do I call? What would help?
I feel anger. It is not placed at anyone in particular. Just anger. Because nursing homes and care communities are a part of our community. They are not separate from us. They are us. We need to care about them. We need to care about what happens in them. We need to hear their voices. Is a lack of attention to care communities in this pandemic the ultimate display of our pervasive ageism?
So, then, there is sadness. Sadness for the pain in care communities, for both people who live and work there. Sadness for the families of people living in care communities.
And it is more than care communities, of course. The families caring for individuals who are living with dementia in their own homes. People living with dementia, who might not have access to the details of what is happening, but feel the anxiety and sadness around them. I feel guilt, helplessness, anger, and sadness here too.
I feel this and I also feel….
Love, gratitude, and awe. For the incredible work people are doing, in care communities, in hospitals, and in our own worlds and lives.
And I feel hope. I really do. I am hopeful that we will continue to think about, and be curious about, what is happening. These experiences present new reasons to explore our feelings about vulnerability and aging, and to ask ourselves how we balance the care of the body with the care of the spirit. I am hopeful that we will take these opportunities to explore the connections between our paradigm of aging (which we need to change), and how this has manifested into the systems and supports we have. To give words to this. Maybe even a revolution.
There is hope in how we might take actions, now and moving forward.
Now, we might share ideas on how to support our communities, which include care communities. Maybe we can find out what care communities need and how we can help get it to them. Maybe we can call our elected leaders and our government agencies, and ask them to make sure they are supporting care communities, both those who live and work in them. We can demand that care communities receive the support they need. That they matter.
It is also okay to sit with our feelings, to take care of ourselves, and to heal. It is okay to be rather than do. We need to rest for what is ahead.
There is hope in how we move forward. These experiences are providing us with precious opportunities to consider how we will build generationally-inclusive communities, how we will address pervasive social disconnection, how we will transform care communities into better places to live and work, how we will actively include the voices of elders, and how we will change the paradigm of growing older and growing with dementia. This is the work we have ahead of us. Let’s do what we need to get ready.
More about all of this soon.