It’s been more than 15 months since a pandemic shuttered our world, our country, our communities, and our very lives. Now, as mask mandates are lifted and social distancing decreases, we seem to be gradually coming to the end of the COVID pandemic with its critical health risks, forced business closures, restricted access, and social isolation, and we’ve all learned some important lessons from these past many months.
We’ve learned that family and other relationships, and spending real, quality time with those we love and care about, are more important than we realized before and we should never leave any loving or encouraging words unspoken, because we are never guaranteed more time that the minutes we are currently living. Travel restrictions, aging care facilities, medical centers and even colleges and universities prevented families from gathering and forced some family members to die alone because of visit restrictions driven by fear of infection.
We’ve learned that social isolation is highly detrimental to those who live alone, regardless of age or ability. Being prevented from interacting socially with others negatively impacts our lives on every level: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Everyone needs some level of social engagement to be healthy and well-rounded. Advancing age and its related declining conditions and abilities tends to bring on some level of social isolation for many older adults, but the pandemic brought about these conditions almost overnight. Nobody was prepared for the mental and emotional trauma caused by being told to stay at home, only go out for essential tasks, wear masks and gloves, stay 6 feet from others, and limit your exposure to others in your environment to minutes. All these restrictions and limitations resulted in diminished physical activity (which resulted in weight gain for many people), binge or stress eating of comfort foods or overindulgence in alcohol or recreational drugs to help alleviate the stress of living in an unknown situation. Addictions and suicides increased. Many people lost their jobs, or were forced to take an extended, and sometimes unpaid, leave of absence while the business tried to find a way to reopen in compliance with pandemic mandates. Spiritually the damage came about when places of worship were not allowed to meet in person, so congregants lost their weekly opportunity to gather and find strength, support, and courage for the daily challenges that now were made worse by the pandemic. Mentally confusion arose when every day felt like “Blursday” with very little to distinguish weekdays from weekends.
We’ve learned to take technology and make it ours as we have used it to overcome some of the hurdles the pandemic threw in our path. We’ve learned that medical advances can come with blinding speed when scientists and researchers are motivated to collaborate and work together for a common purpose and the good of all people. We’ve learned that we can endure toilet paper shortages (and maybe we should stock up a little more from now on), we can work effectively from a closet in our house (now called the “cloffice”) or anywhere else on the planet as long as the wifi is good, we have managed to help our school-aged children home-school while also managing our own jobs or careers in the next room. We’ve learned that pets are a part of our daily lives and that we need them nearly as much as (and maybe more than) they need us.
We’ve learned all these lessons and so many more, and we will continue to learn as we emerge into the sunlight of a post-pandemic world.
Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve learned is that heroes walk among us, quietly living each day as they go about the business of serving others. Doctors, nurses, social workers, nurse assistants and certified nurse assistants, therapists of all kinds, schoolteachers, janitorial workers, day care providers, home care workers, personal care aides, family caregivers, and many others all show up day after day to do their essential jobs as they care for those who are sick or infirm or injured or weak and alone. These people, and the work they did during the pandemic, should be recognized for keeping our world running despite heretofore unseen challenges. If you are one of these heroes, we honor you here for your remarkable service during the pandemic. Thank you for your tireless service and your caring heart.
Betsy: Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at here at Heart of the Caregiver to learn more lessons and share your own from the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020.