Stay-at-home orders in Illinois are in place through the end of May. While some of us can venture out for groceries wearing a mask, or socially-distanced walks, most seniors remain in their homes or isolated in their rooms. Health experts are recommending that seniors avoid contact with potential virus carriers, including family members. That means that until a vaccine is available, seniors may lose precious time with their kids and grand-kids.
COVID-19 poses a disproportionate danger to seniors, so there is good reason for the social distancing. But the relationships that seniors are missing out on are important for mental and emotional health, and this is just as much a concern as the physical risk of catching the virus. Phone calls and video chats have helped maintain some family contact. But forced isolation is taking its toll. When family members are barred from home, assisted living and nursing home visits, I believe the social isolation starts to affect physical health.
When it comes to end-of-life, nurses and staff do their best to provide comfort, but family should be there. It was heart wrenching to get a call from a son whose dad had just passed. Everyone knew the end was near. In normal times he would have been surrounded by family. Today he died alone in his room. Holding a loved one’s hand, comforting through the tears, saying goodbye – are part of the grieving and closure process. It can’t be ignored. It shouldn’t be dismissed.
Life is a gift. No one is promised tomorrow. Families need to be together. I am ready for this to be over. Today was a sad day.