Last week marked a year since long-term care facilities around the country were forced into lockdown since elders were forced into their rooms or apartments since COVID became a part of our everyday lives. I don’t have to recount to you the staggering number of people who have become ill or the terrible death toll that COVID has wrought. We all have seen the statistics, we all know the magnitude.
Where we stand right now is at the brink of our post-COVID reality. No, we are not there yet but in our little corner of the world, the lights definitely seem brighter. The elders are vaccinated and the vast majority of our staff (close to 80% I am happy to say) are also in that category. Cases are down around our area and even CMS and the CDC are issuing guidelines designed to allow elders and others to feel as if they are getting their lives back.
None of us are who we are a year ago when this began. Whether you have been isolated and working from home or, as we have been, at the frontlines, COVID has left an imprint on who we are and how we see the world. We have come to realize that nothing is unimaginable, that our lives can be upended completely by a virus that, just weeks before, we saw as someone else’s issue, something far from our reality.
We’ve learned that our assumption that we would find a way to “fix it” was patently untrue. We assumed that there would be a solution, an intervention, a “Hail Mary” that would somehow make everything okay. The truth was, however, that there were no easy answers or magic bullets. The truth was that a lot of lives were affected and many lost before we even knew what hit us.
Fear and anxiety came to live in many of our lives in ways they had not before. Certainly all of us have experienced stress in our lives but this was something different — something amorphous without defined edges, no beginning, middle or end that we could see. There was no way out nor did it appear that there was any way to get through.
Yet along with so many difficult, so many overwhelming moments, there was much that we learned this year. We learned how strong we are, we learned that we can push through our fears to care for the people who need our care. We learned that we are endlessly resourceful and creative, that, while some people disappointed us, so many made our hearts swell with pride. We learned that we could come together, support each other and do more than we ever thought possible.
We will not forget the lessons of this COVID year. We will not forget the losses. We will no longer take anything for granted, knowing — once and for all — that nothing is a given. But we will also not forget what we have found — the ability to move forward, the depth of commitment and compassion, the power of human beings who found it in themselves to do remarkable things.