On the evening of Monday, March 16th, my 89-year-old mother Ginny’s Independent/Assisted living facility was placed on lockdown. No one in and no one out to limit the spread of COVID-19. Although there are several confirmed cases of the virus in the county, at this time, there are none inside the residence.
I was not surprised to hear the news. I was actually relieved to hear it, but it would present new challenges. She is provided one meal a day, so how will she keep her kitchen stocked? Get her prescriptions? Family members always assist Ginny with these tasks. She doesn’t use the internet. We could potentially order on her behalf; but food delivery to the lobby isn’t an option right now. The last I heard, the staff is concerned about sitting perishables as they can’t promise when it would be taken to an apartment.
I had questions, but first I wanted to call and get a read on how she is feeling about this development. She is fiercely independent and doesn’t like to be inconvenienced.
“Well, there goes my hair” was actually the first thing she said, laughing when she picked up. This was an excellent sign that she was accepting the new normal. And getting her hair washed and styled has been a staple for her for probably 50 years, so it was natural for that outing to be considered a priority. Unfortunately, however, she added “I can wait a week, but I sure hope I can get in next week.” I didn’t want to scare or frustrate her prematurely, so I opted to take the “one day at a time” approach and didn’t correct her. It’s pretty clear though that this lockdown could last several weeks.
Residents are no longer dining together either. They are provided an order sheet for the following day which is picked up when that day’s food is delivered. I was surprised (and pleased) to learn that the residence is providing lunch too. Apparently, the offerings are basic, mostly sandwiches, but Ginny seems happy with the choices.
“They are taking care of us” were her exact words. I was so appreciative to hear that she seems to have peace of mind in the middle of this crisis. Hers is an almost child-like response. She acknowledges it, she may have a question, but then she actually started to talk more about trying out the pool for the first time and how she was going to look for her bathing suit. Knowing her exposure is so limited right now, I would rather have her somewhat underestimating the threat than overestimating it and thereby creating a lot of internal anxiety and panic. And that may change in time. I am hoping that she will remember to wash her hands after using the communal laundry area and trash receptacle.
I located a list online of how they are specifically minimizing that exposure right now:
- Restricting visitation to only those residents receiving end of life care services. Those visits still require screening to enter the community. Medical, emergency, and essential personnel are permitted in the community after passing screening criteria
- Replacing group dining in our dining rooms with meal delivery to resident rooms
- Switching from china to single-use disposable dinnerware
- Suspending group activities
- Suspending all resident trips outside of the community, other than for medical purposes
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning
- Reviewing and reinforcing infection control protocols
- Increasing food and medical supply levels
Even with these precautions, I remain worried. If there is one physical weakness Ginny exhibits, it is typically a respiratory one. She’s had bronchitis twice in 5 months.
I feel that taking it one day at a time is one step forward through the lockdown. I want as many good days as possible, and I’ll continue to take her “state-of-mind” pulse through the phone lines.
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