June 2023 Presidential Ponderings
On May 11th, 2023, the federal government officially ended the Public Health Emergency that was declared at the outset of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Although the virus is still out there, the cases are extremely few in number and rarely result in hospitalizations or deaths, anymore. Essentially, the pandemic is now behind us.
For most of us, we can now breathe a sigh of relief and get on with our lives. For others, it is a day of celebration for the scourge is no longer a threat to ourselves and our loved ones. For yet others, it is a time of tears as we remember those who were lost to the virus, and others whose symptoms still linger. For the staff, especially, it is a bittersweet experience as we rejoice in being unmasked, but also finally take the time to process the stress and many sacrifices that were made over the last three years.
What did we learn from this hard road that we’ve been traveling since early 2020? First, we are stronger and more resilient than we thought possible. Recall that early on, I was concerned about our ability to respond to a crisis that lasted more than a week or two; little did I know, then, that the crisis would last more than three years! Secondly, we learned that social isolation was in many ways as (or more) harmful than the effects of the virus. We are a Community built on vibrant relationships, and it was difficult on everybody when we could no longer gather together. This forced isolation was even more damaging in our healthcare units when the government imposed total visitation lockdowns; not only could our elders not receive visits from their loved ones, but even inside their units they were prohibited from leaving their rooms.
Lastly, we learned that our resiliency is matched only by our creativity. We discovered technology. The Chaplain’s televised daily announcements, the Zoom meetings, the daily Mary George TV exercise classes, the “What’s New with Jeff” presentations on our YouTube channel, the videochats via tablet computers that our elders had with their family members, and finally, the electronic health kiosks that scanned our bodies for any signs of a fever. They all came to be during the pandemic.
The pandemic was the most difficult and stressful time in my 40-year career in senior living services. That being said, we are a stronger Community for having lived through that experience. Many thanks to all of the staff, residents, family members and vendors who helped us survive, and ultimately thrive.
Jeff Shireman, President