Here I am.
After a hiatus, I finally sat down and decided it was time to write.
Why did I stop? In short, I needed a break. I needed to take something off my plate.
I had a few people attack me on Facebook messenger and was just over it. Not even angry. Just over it.
Throw in three back surgeries in 2021, the death of two of our pets, and a spoonful of depression and generalized anxiety.
And I’ve been struggling with what to write. I carry some COVID-related anger. Mostly, I am angry that our society isn’t more empathetic toward older adults.
We’ve all heard sad tales about nursing homes unable to allow families in to visit. That’s devastating, but it’s not the whole story. It’s also that a nursing home resident can’t see her friend down the hallway. Because of HIPAA, they may not know if they are well, dead, or in the COVID wing. A nursing home resident sees residents being relocated. Who is going where? Will they come back? And who is in that body bag that I caught a glance of when my door was opened?
Some residents are in the know about the pandemic. They watched the numbers rise on the scroll at the bottom of their TV. They hear people on the news say “Old people are the only ones who die” and realize that much of society thinks they are disposable.
A friend’s grandma was quarantined in her room at a nursing home for 10 consecutive months. No group activities. No congregate meals. No visitors. She had a roommate during this time. Her roommate was woman who often cried out in pain, although staff couldn’t find any physical problem. At the begin of the pandemic, she could have an intelligent conversation with the roommate. After a few months, the roommate could no longer carry on a conversation. She was only able to grunt and cry. My friend’s grandma started to resent her and would often lose her patience.
Now I am hearing that the pandemic is over and “We made it.” First, many nursing homes are shut down right now due to outbreaks. Residents in some places are not sure they will be able to see their families for Thanksgiving. Also, I struggle when people say “We made it.” Not all of us did make it. Many of us died. What you mean is that you made it.
I used to spend time in nursing homes, assisted livings, and memory care communities to do education and programming. I’m not back yet. My college students often work in nursing homes and they give me updates on morale among both residents and staff. It’s been rough for both. (So rough that a colleague at the university and me are in the midst of a study looking at post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth among nursing home employees.)
I am frustrated at the lack of mental health services available to nursing home residents. I’ve said this for several years now…but after COVID? It’s heartbreaking. Residents have negotiated trauma, loss, and grief. And there’s no counselor available to these individuals. My colleague and I are working on this, as well. How can we get counseling interns and practicum students into nursing homes? How can we work to meet this need rather than ignoring the terrifying roller coaster nursing home residents have been on?
I’m back because I’m a gerontologist, and gerontologists have a lot of work to do right now. COVID has reminded me America doesn’t care about grandmas and grandpas unless they are your grandmas and grandpas.
I’m back because some of you reached out to me. Sometimes I reached back, and sometimes I didn’t. But your acknowledgement that my blog has been helpful to you has brought me back to doing what I love to do when I couldn’t find the energy.
I’m back because I follow a woman living with dementia on Twitter. Her name is Janice. She is honest about her wins and losses, and she’s made it clear that we have a long way to go in promoting quality of life in those with dementia. And I want to be a part of this.
I think I have something to offer.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I even had a pen name, Keisha Pulliam. You know what you have to do to be a writer? You have to write.
See you next week.