I have been known to refer to the time period that began in February/March 2020, and continues to the present day, as the COVID era. I think it merits that description as a point in time that indicates a true before and after. The world, as we know it, is far from the same post-COVID as it was pre-COVID.
A year ago we were in the midst of the darkest days that those of us who work in long term care have ever known. Fear and anxiety were our constant companions, 24 hours a day every day. We had no information about this virus, no guidance and no resources. But what we did have, in many places, were elders and staff becoming ill at alarming rates. What we did have were people losing their lives to the most contagious illness imaginable.
We all worked ceaselessly to try and come up with answers. We scrounged for PPE and testing. We read every guideline that came out from CMS, from the State Department of Health, from the CDC. We listened to every webinar and networked with our peers. And we asked ourselves, over and over again, “what more can we do?’ We fought hard and tirelessly and, although we did not save everyone, we saved many and helped many to heal.
Today we are in a far different place and for that, we are extremely grateful. Our elders and staff have largely been vaccinated and we have the ability to make vaccines available for new admissions as well as new staff. We test routinely and, although we still hold our breath a bit as we wait to see the day’s test results, we have maintained all negative results across the board.
More importantly, though, life is beginning to return to our campuses. Relaxing the draconian rules on visitation has meant that families can be reunited for the first time in more than a year. We provided as many visiting options as we could throughout the “lockdown” months but now, we can truly help families to be together again.
A year of separation and isolation, despite our best efforts to keep our elders engaged, has led to changes in many of our elders. Aging is not a static process and many have declined, both physically as well as cognitively. We cannot “get back” the year that we lost, a year that for elders may be far more than just 365 plus days. But we can do everything in our power to make these reunions happen, to facilitate and assist.
Seeing our elders with their families, seeing them enjoying programs and one another’s company brings light to our days and to our lives. Those of us who choose to work with older adults do so because it is a passion and a calling, because our motivation is to enrich and enhance their lives — as they enrich and enhance our lives daily.
Now that we can see the light at the end of this long COVID tunnel, time for us to allow our elders to bask in that light and renewal. Time for them to know and savor the joy of family and being together once again.