Over the course of the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to attend two different professional conferences that brought together senior care providers from a wide variety of organizations across the country. Most of these individuals had not been together for more than two years and the energy at both conferences reflected the joy in being able to gather once again.
In both places, it was rare to talk with a person who didn’t recount the last time they’d attended an event, many referencing the end of February or beginning of March 2020, just days before our world of elder care went into lockdown mode. It is still somewhat hard to believe all that has transpired in these two short (and endless) years.
There was some sharing of the “worst moments” that we all had but, more than that, a recognition that all of those present were survivors. We, and our organizations, had made it through an experience that none of us could ever have imagined. We faced the fears and the challenges head on and just through our presence at these meetings demonstrated that we are “still standing.”
What was clear to me is that the last two years have changed the way many of us think about the work we do and, even more so, see the world in which we do that work. Having been without resources and support when COVID began, we all had to figure it out as we went along. Every one of us relied on our peers and shared whatever information and contacts we had, without hesitation. We shared our anxieties and uncertainties with one another, knowing that not only did our colleague understand fully but also knowing that only those who were living it, as we were, could fully understand.
I am pretty sure that none of us will ever again believe that the “experts” will have the solutions or that help will come from somewhere beyond ourselves. We won’t wait for answers and I don’t know that we will even expect answers. We are, and will continue to be, better prepared than we ever were in the past. We learned the hard way what it will take to keep people safe during an outbreak of infectious disease of any sort and we are ready to go from 0 to 100 at the first hint of any new contagion.
Often we talked about COVID as a war we were fighting, searching for weapons and confronting challenges not just daily but multiple times a day. These soldiers, these long term care providers, are battle hardened and even battle scarred, but they have overcome, they have survived and they are moving strongly into the future. Their commitment and dedication to the lives of our elders is the standard that they have carried throughout this battle and it is the standard that will gives them the power and strength to continue.