Keep Calm and Try to Cope
Last week our blog was titled “How to Succeed in an Unparalleled Crisis.” Unfortunately, we are now engaged in a whole new week with new guidelines that can be horribly confusing. What to know, and what not to believe. What is truth from fiction. All we know for sure at this point is the coronavirus is alive and well, not just here in the United States but globally. Some countries are making progress, while others are seeing an uptick in the number of cases and subsequent deaths. How terribly unpredictable.
Now you can understand why I’ve entitled and dedicated this blog to “coping” amid an unparalleled crisis.
We are attempting to live our life under the constraints handed us, and while most of us (except all the beach-goers) are sheltering at our homes and still trying to get things done. For all of us life goes on, and for all of us, it goes on differently. It’s almost certain that virtually all of us are communicating with family and friends in some fashion, whether it be by phone, facetime, Skype, testing, email, et al. and we’re most likely trying to take care of some housekeeping projects that have been pending for months or years, or even some new projects just recently fabricated as a result of being stuck at home.
And of course, there is the time spent on other people’s affairs. Helping out a neighbor, friend, or in my case, taking care of my parent’s needs while they are in a nursing home. As you might know, there is a nationwide mandate imposed on all skilled nursing and long-term care facilities that no non-essential personnel are permitted in the premises. Even with the mandate, it does not preclude the need for a myriad of daily phone calls back and forth between my parents and the on-site care givers. Frankly, it just doesn’t seem to stop. My BoomerGuy and I handle everything for my parents, so the task continues to be daunting even though I am unable to gain entry to visit them in person.
It is with little regard that the mental health experts are telling us “you’re not alone, and everyone is facing something.” Wow!!! How gratifying to hear such uninspiring words coming from so-called experts. Is that really all they’ve got to impart to us seniors.
So what’s going on here? Well, I’m going to try to convey several very important themes for coping with our new lives, such as they are.
PLEASE DON’T BE ANGRY. This is nothing about what you did or what you might have caused. This is a highly infectious virus that has been transmitted over the past several months in an unprecedented fashion. Do not waste your precious energy on the ‘anger’ emotion, because it will get you nothing in return. And by all means, pass these words of wisdom onto your family and friends. If you give them anything, give them this advice.
FEND FOR YOURSELF. If you have a network of family and friends that are cautiously reliable, then fine. Rely on them for grocery deliveries, helping out with an occasional task, running a few errands, newsworthy tips etc. But if you’re like me, I have my BoomerGuy upon whom I can rely, but other than that it’s just the two of us. We are youngest in the neighborhood, so rather than ask for help from anyone, we are usually the ones providing it. Our family is distant, so it truly is up to us to use our own brains to guide us through this coping mechanism. It takes a routine and a special frame of mind to stay sheltered. I guess the good news is that as we age, it can still be comfortable to stay at home and putter around the house. We love to cook, so trust me, that is high on the agenda. Oh, and did I mention we like to garden—also high on the ‘get off your butt’ and plant some flowers, or in our case being here in southern California, a litany of succulents.
DON’T SPIRAL ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN. It’s too easy to lose control over the uncertainty and what might happen with this pandemic. That statement, by the way, is far reaching, because it involves not only the health and safety aspects of surviving this virus, but also the financial, emotional, and spiritual conditions about what in the world do I do now. My advice to you is the only thing we can control is the short-term impact of how we live our lives. It is not about the long-term, because there is very little supporting evidence that anyone knows what the long-term is going to look like. For now, us Boomers and seniors of all ages, have some solace in that our retirement accounts are somewhat stable, Social Security and Medicare are funded and providing predictable monthly comfort, the costs for prescription drugs are in control and not rising uncontrollably , etc. If you’re like me and working from home, make certain you maintain your internet and computer connectivity so that you can remain in contact with the world at large.
ANXIETY IS ALIVE AND WELL. My suggestion accept it then kick it in the butt. It has no place in our mindset. Trust me when I say we Boomers and seniors have endured greater hardships than being sequestered at home. Sure, we’re anxious about what all this holds and that’s how you should look at it. We’re anxious to move forward, peel back the next layer, look into the crystal ball and get moving with life as we knew it. It may not be quite the same, but it will be close. So be anxious for what’s next. How lovely to have something new to look forward to.
COMMUNICATE AND LEARN. I talk with family and friends all over the country to learn and understand what they’re experiencing. Friends on the east coast and then in Michigan, a college buddy in Nebraska, family in Colorado and long-time friends up and down the west coast. It’s not only satisfying to reach out and touch their lives, but it’s important to hear what they’re experiencing. Do you know that you can give them guidance and helpful hints due to the fact that you’re also experienced. Be their coach, be their mentor, and help them understand they are suffering the exact same things you are. Help them with their children and grandchildren, and don’t forget about their precious little and not-so-little pets. It’s great when they reach back to you unsolicited—you have just closed gaps that heretofore might have existed for years. And you can learn from them, as well.
There is simply nothing better than to give hope to others,
and for them to give hope to you…
YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH WORKING FROM HOME. Yes, this applies to Boomers and other seniors in that we weren’t quite ready to hit the hammock just yet. I’m not referring specifically to people who have employers piling on additional work, excessive Zoom meeting schedules, webinar attendance at critical times, etc. all the while leaving your work-life balance in the toilet. No, I’m referring to us Boomers who have senior-senior parents in either a skilled nursing or long-term care facility, and where your daily work from home consists of looking after their needs. I have been doing this for the past seven years, and it has truly redefined what I consider to be a normal life and household due to the needs of my aging parents. A phone call comes and you cannot just ignore it—you drop everything and take care of it right then whether it be from one of my parents or a charge nurse, or you have a scheduled conference call with nursing and dietary to go over your parent’s 90-day review which may take an hour or so, or you have your bi-daily call from mom telling you how their day was and what they had to eat. It’s all time consuming, and it all takes away from your normal workload, which in my case is addressing the needs of my wonderful website.
There are millions of us dealing with aging parents in similar conditions. It’s not pleasant, and I’m certain all of us would rather be doing something different, but it’s the hand that’s been dealt to us. I have found that it’s largely role-reversal where we are now the parents and they have become the children, and in many cases, they will behave just like that.
You need to accept the terms, in no uncertain terms. You are it. You are the primary care giver, whether it be on-site or distant which it is now. And if you don’t, you will live with the regret and guilt for years to come. If you have other family members or siblings willing to help out, take it. Otherwise, it’s on you baby.
So, now you’ve accepted the responsibility and the assignment, and they are big ones. Your otherwise leisure or workday is now compromised, and wherever you go you take your phone or remote computer device, because you need to stay connected to your daily needs as well as that fateful call from the nursing home or one of your parents. Life has changed, and it’s not normal. On a very real time basis you are handling your parent’s issues as well as your own.
YOU’RE MOURNING CANCELLED EVENTS. There is no doubt the pandemic has altered life as we know it, forcing people to miss out on experiences they had been looking forward to for a long time. We drive down the freeway to the desert and the billboards announce the rescheduling of both the Coachella and Stagecoach music fests in the Coachella Valley from April to October 23rd. Many of the highlighted celebrities and entertainers at the various casinos have been cancelled or postponed, as well. People are mourning their special events such as birthdays, upcoming retirement parties, wedding dates, graduation ceremonies for children or grandchildren, proms, promotions, vacations, family gatherings, anniversaries, et al. The list is simply too long to expound, but rest assured, the coronavirus is the culprit behind all this, and it has virtually demolished everything in its path.
The simple solution is to realize that all of these events are insignificant compared to the implications of COVID-19, and the resulting consequences. Don’t beat yourself up over the cancellations or postponements, it’s totally normal to feel sad, remorse, annoyed, and disappointed. But think of this as the solution, your plans will still be there, albeit a bit delayed or somewhat different. So, now you have something new and exciting to look forward to. It’s not quite the same, but it’s still a gift.
DO A PROJECT! My BoomerGuy and I decided to embark on a project involving a small atrium outside the house. It fell into disrepair when my parents were living in the house, so we decided to spruce it up. After we finish all the plantings, we will share the transformation in an upcoming blog.
And then we decided to help our neighbor, who happens to be 87 and a dear friend of my parent’s. We started small, then it morphed into a larger project involving custom painting of patio furniture. Yikes! Our bodies are telling us right now that perhaps we were a bit overzealous. But it made us feel good, and we know that it made her feel good because of all the compliments she bestowed on our work. We did all that with social distancing and wearing our requisite masks!
IN CONCLUSION, expect nothing to run smoothly in this brave new world of COVID-19. Long lines, limited supplies and some really patient people out there, and unfortunately some that are not so kind. Don’t be one of those. Please remember we are all dealing with the same issues, more than we ever have before. Be kind, be grateful, be considerate, and be there for someone else.
I will end this with a funny story, and true. My sister who normally doesn’t listen to anyone else’s advice. She called and said she and her husband were down to one roll of toilet paper and one sheet. And she didn’t want to be a hoarder, but that didn’t mean much since she couldn’t find any supply. I explained that hoarding is not allowed here in California, they will watch you upon check out and limit you to one package only. An example of how my experience paid off—I told her she needed to forget about online shopping, Costco and the other big box stores and go to your local grocer first thing in the morning when they open for seniors. Have your game plan in place. When you walk in you go immediately to where the paper products are kept, don’t divert, and you will be successful. Voila. Just got a text from her saying she was successful and thanked me profusely for the simple pleasures in life. She and her husband are now doing the happy dance.
Stay tuned for our next installment on the coronavirus and what we can do as seniors to move effectively through this very unpredictable time.
If you want to, you can find a million reasons to hate life and be angry at the world,
or you can find a million reasons to love life and be happy…Choose Wisely.