I spent today conducting several therapy sessions with elderly residents of a nearby nursing home. They were tremendously stressed by the multiple changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are residents who already struggle with feeling extremely lonely and isolated. Now, their family members are prohibited from visiting them, for an indefinite period of time.
Thankfully, this nursing home has become very creative in addressing residents’ needs to connect with their family members. Residents are escorted to the main dining room, and their family members are allowed to meet them right outside the dining room’s window. They then communicate over the phone.
I felt deeply saddened to witness residents who are struggling with feeling extremely isolated. Such residents have already faced so very many losses in their lives, including the loss of their formal vitality.
Residents in nursing homes face a very difficult adjustment: they essentially lose control over so many things, including their personal preferences for how to spend their time, when to wake up, and when to eat.
When meeting with these residents, I try to remember their former selves. At one time, they were younger, and considered to be vital and relevant men and women.
Perhaps my own experiences of serious chronic illnesses have allowed me to more deeply appreciate the degree of loss that these elderly residents face. I know, all too well, what it’s like to feel a total loss of control over the trajectory of your life.
I’m deeply thankful that my personal experiences allow me to connect with my elderly residents on a deeper level than is possible for most doctors.