My guess is that you are spending a lot of time at home these days. Unless deemed essential, you, like me, are doing what we have been asked to do and that is socially distance. We spend our days and nights from waking until bedtime with the exact same people. We do almost the exact same thing every day. Much like the movie Groundhog Day, we are living the same day over and over again. We seldom leave our house and when we do, it’s a big deal. We get nervous and excited at the same time just to go to the grocery store or to pick up food.
It took a couple weeks, but I realized that this is how individuals in care must feel when they do not get good community integration. A month into seldom leaving the house, barely interacting with others outside of my immediate roommates (family) and doing the same thing almost every day has made me think about how important community integration REALLY is. I now deeper understand the importance of social capital in maintaining our mental health. How just moving out into the community can diminish many challenging behaviors brought about by doing the same thing over and over again with the exact same people.
One difference, however, is that unlike many in care, I can still get out virtually. In the last couple weeks, I have increased facetime chats with family and friends. I have attended virtual happy hours and birthday parties. My wife still meets with the same group of ladies she did prior to social distancing but they now meet over zoom. She has had coffee with her friends where they are 6-8 feet apart while still sitting in their SUV’s with the tailgates up. This fills a void though it admittedly is not the same.
Often times when meet virtually we bemoan how awful it is that we cannot really go where we want, see who we wish and hug our parents and grandparents. We talk about how we long for this to lift and get back to normal so we can go to restaurants, church, stores and meet for happy hour at the bar. It is then that I hear the voices in my head of all those I have known it long term care over the years say, “It’s not so fun is it…welcome to my world.”
My hope and prayer is that once we are back to a semblance of normalcy, we not forget those who remain in isolation. We need to remember this feeling and visit those who are shut in and unable to get out. We need to invite people in care to join us out in the community and assist in finding ways to make that happen. We need to not forget this lesson we have been given on how it feels to be isolated away from others and make sure we apply the learning to our future. We should not return to a normal where some of us get to go back to accessing the community while others remain isolated. We should not return to “normal” but create a better norm in the future. Otherwise, we have waisted the learning we have been given.
Tim Geels – SVP of Corporate Implementation and Instruction