During a pandemic? YES.
Especially during a pandemic.
After almost 20 years of working in almost every type of physical therapy setting possible, gathering new things for my toolbox of skills, I am creating my own way to use them. Because it is needed.
In America, elderly people as a whole are isolated. I think we know this, but sometimes we may not notice how lonely life is. After a few days of sheltering at home, many younger generations cried out in loneliness and used social media as an outlet. The introverts lasted longer : ). But, imagine living the last DECADE of your life alone, your life culminating in sitting in your old comfy chair in a permanent sort of sheltering in place. This was supposed to be the time of life where you were to be revered for your wisdom and life experience, be rewarded for all those years of hard work.
Instead, you're at home, trying to decipher your prescriptions. You look forward to the
neighbor maybe saying hello or seeing the mail carrier come by through your window as you watch television. Lunch is a can of soup. Sometimes solitude is welcome, you can wake up when you want, get dressed or don't.
Even if there are people around, the isolation is still there. I think it's partly a generational thing. For the most part seniors don't like to impose, they don't want to bother their children, they are accustomed to 'making do' and don't necessarily want to give up more independence. They endured The Great Depression, polio and influenza to name a few outbreaks, so not being able to get their particular favorite bread doesn't seem to be a biggie. Being inconvenienced by a mask maybe isn't a bother if you consider the alternative.
But being without mobility? Being stuck?
Since March 2020, I have met and worked with many seniors, some of whom are scared and some of whom see Covid-19 as something they didn't expect to deal with, not this long.
In a day, I may be the only person they speak to and for some, it was the same isolation pre-pandemic. Everyone responds to challenges differently, and though I generalize, across the board, the hardest part seems to be the isolation. Why? Most elderly folks are already isolated. So the few visitors they get each week are not only staying away, but in some cases like assisted living centers and senior independent apartments, they aren't even going to the dining hall to socialize and eat with their cohorts. They are eating alone out of styrofoam. It's like the last straw.
Sometimes that's why an elderly person may not know the day of the week, they don't have anything to look forward to. Nothing is on the calendar.
So here's the gap. What keeps them from doing the things they want/need to do - not only to be functional, but happy? If they are financially able and have the time? Say they want to go fishing or visit a friend, or a telemedicine visit isn't going to suffice this time. If it was you and the only reason you cannot do these things is because you need a little bit of help for a lot of (small) things.
What if this isolates you?
It isolates the elderly.
1) You have an appointment, but can't remember when it is.
2) A shower before you go would be really nice, but you would get so tired.
3) You need someone to help steady you while you get dressed, especially the shoes.
4) You took your medication out, but then the phone rang, and you forgot it.
5) You can walk but gosh, getting from the car to the medical office?
6) You don't drive anymore but you still want to live life.
7) You can't get the darn walker in the car and then get yourself in the car.
8) You use a wheelchair and everything is just harder.
9) You might need help to the bathroom while you're there. How? Who?
10) You'd really like to pick up a few things but you're out of breath.
11) You can't remember everything they tell you at the MD office.
12) You can't be sure what the forms say.
13) They need you to do some labs.
14) There is a new medication you need to get.
15) There is more traffic now since you left your home.
16) The laundry if all over the bathroom floor.
17) Did you take your medicine yet?
18) The cable isn't working right.
19) You have 9 missed calls.
It's a lot.
If you know me, you know I am balling my eyes out as I write this. I could go on forever, but the point is that this pandemic has given me time to pause and catch up and put my energy into a deeper purpose. I want to use my honed skills to do more. The barriers which have stopped many of us healthcare workers from doing more (rules, protocol, reimbursement, liability) even though we chose healthcare careers to help people, have exceeded what I as a human can be okay with.
Elderwheels is essentially my fifth child. For those who are counting: 1) Eastside Yoga (business), 2) Poppy (canine), then 3) Finlay and 4) Vivian (the humans). All have taught me lessons, but the latter two make me want to make this happen, for future generations. And did I mention that my mom, who is in her 70's, has been living with us since March? When we want to take the kids to the park, she pushes for us to leave Vivian at home with her.
But it's more work for you, why?
She responds: she doesn't want to be alone. Vivian makes her laugh. OK, I get it.
I'm in the sandwich generation, trying to meet the needs of a parent and my own children. (More on the sandwich next time). But, with a renewed sense of purpose and the support of everyone on the plate, I am doing this!
Let us uplift our elders!