by Tess Lojacono
Talking on the phone is really not my thing, but even so, I spend a lot of my day calling nursing home Activity Directors to see how they’re doing and to ask about their residents. Often I have to leave messages, as most nursing homes are shorthanded, meaning anyone who is working does anything that needs doing, which cuts into their day significantly. Last week I called a facility in the hopes of finally reaching an Activity Director I’ve worked with for years, and consider a friend. He hadn’t returned my calls over the past few months and I was concerned. This time, when I didn’t reach him, I tried his cell and left a voicemail, asking him to just let me know he was okay. I hoped he was simply too busy to return my calls.
To my relief he did return my call, but relief turned to dismay and then anguish as he explained he had quit his job, because he just didn’t have it in him, to put on a cheerful face and reassure everyone that things were fine and they would all be okay. The short story is that they had gone into lock down again, due to positive Covid tests and the results were not good. When they had reached 50 deaths, my friend decided he would remain until their oldest resident celebrated her next birthday, because he had promised her he would be there. But afterwards, he was leaving. They celebrated her birthday three months ago.
Of course, if the deaths were caused by Covid, there was nothing anybody could do. But these deaths were due to social isolation, not Covid19.The awful truth is that nursing home lock downs, meant to protect the lives of the vulnerable, can cause more deaths than Covid itself.
This is the reason FAM designed packaged ART2GO, both group art lessons and individual kits, so that people can get together or stay apart and explore their own creative expression. We believe in ART2GO, not because art is the answer to every problem, but because reminding people that we’re thinking of them, that they matter to us, is a solution that can work wonders. When an elderly resident gets a beautiful art kit that is simple enough to do all on her own, we’re told some residents say they “feel like it’s Christmas!” while others get excited because they can “make a pretty picture” for a friend or relative they haven’t seen in months. It goes far beyond the healing power of creative expression and becomes: the healing power of love.
Reach out today. Don’t wait. Tell your loved ones living in nursing facilities that you’re thinking of them, praying for them–better yet, put on your mask and visit with them, even for a few minutes. Do what you can. You have no idea what a difference it can make.
We need to be aware of the life we are assigning our beloved elderly. If we don’t care about them enough to change our attitudes, to change the level of importance seniors have in our society, then we are all doomed. People who raised us, sacrificed for us, prayed for our successes and wept over our failures must matter to us. If not, then we’re destined to share their fate.