When Can We Party?

Constantly and crushingly, I hear from the family members of my clients: “I
haven’t seen my mother in a year.” It breaks my heart knowing that as health care
providers, we have interacted in-person with people’s loved ones more than their
actual families have over the course of this pandemic. At the tail end of 2019, no
one could have ever imagined any circumstance that would make that statement a
reality. Yet, quarantining has now been a part of our daily lives for an entire 12
months. It has been among the greatest health challenges we’ve ever faced as a
nation, and every family–especially their eldest members–has felt its effects. Many
of us have lost loved ones to the virus, and the circumstances of those deaths have
been horrendously sad.
As dire as the situation has been, it’s beginning to look like the worst has
passed us. A light is forming at the end of the tunnel, our hope is slowly being
restored, and all of it is due to a single group of largely unrecognized,
underappreciated, and grossly underpaid contributors to the success of defeating
this virus: the caregivers. Words can hardly emphasize the heroism of our
communities’ caregivers, who have been working around the clock to protect us
and our loved ones. If you have a parent or grandparent who survived Coronavirus
in a care community, it was a caregiver who stood, bravely and selflessly, between
them and the Grim Reaper. Every hour, caregivers denied Death access as certainly
as they denied access to you and I. Many caregivers paid the ultimate price for
their courage. It would have been easy to walk away, but these brave souls
committed themselves entirely to helping their communities. These heroic acts
must be recognized, and I encourage everyone who is now beginning to reunite
with their loved ones to express their gratitude for the monumental sacrifices made
on our behalf.
All good things start with the Caregiver.
The leadership of care communities throughout the world is also deserving
of our appreciation. Over the course of this pandemic, healthcare leaders have
faced extremes unseen in their profession since the first World War. No leader
alive in today’s world had ever experienced this level of demand. I had been
denied access to my customers, and early on, I felt singled out for no good reason
other than my being an RN. But I know my way around. Dealing with disease is my
job and I am trained specifically for managing infection. It did not take me long to
discover healthcare leaders’ determination to curb the virus. The barrier to failure
must be airtight. So, I sat on the sidelines and contributed when and where I could
to make their plan of care successful. Believe me, no executive of a care
community wants to cut a daughter off from seeing their mom. That is a hard
decision, requiring monumental command. We owe the lives of the elderly
population to the leaders and caregivers who were forced to make these decisions.

Now I’m beginning to hear a lot about the reopening of care communities to
visitation. It’s more than likely going to be limited, but anything is better than
nothing at all. Reuniting mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, with
their families is sure to result in more than a few tears of joy. I have never been
much of a party guy, nor have I ever been a huggy, kissy kind of guy. It’s just
never been my style–until now. The minute they raise the flag and say, “Start your
hugging,” I will be first in line to hug our Caregivers, Executive Directors,
Wellness Nurses, Social Workers, Owners of Care Homes, and Doctors. All those
who kept America safe, who cared for our loved ones, are getting the Big Squeeze.
Damn it, man. When can we party?

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