Ron, my loved one of 25 years, is a retired psychotherapist with Parkinson’s Disease. He stays in a small apartment in the assisted living area of the very best continuing care area in the city, moving there from independent living in October. He had begun to need even more environmental services yet stayed taken part in life and psychologically alerted.
When the coronavirus started to penetrate south Louisiana, nevertheless, Ron’s assisted-living facility reacted with a response that I would call extreme and absolute, no question originated from the anxiety of virus and a concern for their responsibility. They effectively shut down the campus. They hadn’t prepared for what that would mean to Ron and others like him.
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Quarantined in the Assisted Living Facility
All visitors other than caregivers were barred; neither Ron’s child and also grandchildren nor I might see. We could not take him off school, even just for lunch, or after being confined to his unit for two weeks. All residents were required to stay on the properties besides medical visits when the facility’s van chauffeur would take them.
Mental stimulation became purely DIY, which is infinitely more difficult when Parkinson’s already saps your power.
Every day, three dishes delivered to Ron’s unit, so he’s been consuming alone regularly, given that the third week of March. There’ve been no more chances for camaraderie over fried poultry in the dining room or take a seat with two sweet-looking, powder-haired women and locating that they, also, would certainly like to enter into a routine poker video game.
No more visiting performers from the LSU School of Music came to entertain; no more speakers held forth in the community room on subjects ranging from the challenges of the Middle East to climate change.
The Toll on People With Parkinson’s.
In this new routine, psychological stimulation ended up being purely do-it-yourself, which is considerably harder when Parkinson’s already saps your energy. When your life has been primarily analog, and nigh on to impossible.
Ron’s specifications were defined by where he could perambulate along the driveways and walkways on his rollator. Yet, indeed, he required to put on a mask as well as maintain a social range if he ran into another resident, which made chatting challenging, with the requisite 6 feet of separation and also the hearing loss several citizens suffer. Pleasant interludes in the yard were reduced to a mush of “Huh’s?” as well as “What did you say’s?”.
And also, as I’ve seen throughout our daily FaceTime sees, after Ron’s seven weeks in lockdown, in physical isolation with a lack of social and intellectual excitement, he has suffered a recognizable psychological decline. Often, he seems like the old Ron, yet at various other times, he cannot refine things– and it’s not merely from the Parkinson’s.
A few days earlier, for example, while were FaceTiming, I informed Ron I had a 1 p.m. Zoom date with my grandsons. When they were in school, he looked quizzical and asked how I could talk to them.
They’re not in school, I told him. Think about it, I said, adding, “Why are they not in school?” He couldn’t remember. After I reminded him of the coronavirus shutdown’s ubiquity, he hit his head with his hand and groaned, embarrassed. “I can’t believe I could have forgotten that,” he whispered, suddenly terrified of his deterioration.
How a Lack of Social and Intellectual Stimulation Affected Him:
I suspect that the weeks-long lack of intellectual and social stimulation affected Ron and others that live by themselves in assisted living facilities. The need for outside connections led me to conclude that Ron should have had access to something similar to what my elementary school-aged grandchildren receive: In the absence of their regular school days, they have differing levels of digital learning, so their isolation is broke, at least virtually.
Before the next, inevitable pandemic, I believe that older adults and their loved ones who’ll be shopping for a long-term care facility should expand their checklist of amenities to include the ability to connect to the outside world through the wonders of the digital one.
As Next Avenue’s recent article about senior housing attested, this is already in place at some senior communities. I fear that many, like Ron’s, don’t offer these services.
They should realize, is at their peril because only protecting residents from physical harm can exacerbate their mental decline.
How Long-Term Care Communities Should Do:
Care communities need dedicated tech assistants on staff to instruct residents, even for something as necessary as how to practice FaceTime.
Ron had never entered FaceTime on his smartphone. After I asked we try, it took numerous frustrating rounds of instruction because I wasn’t there to help him. But now he delights in seeing my face, as well as the young and enthusiastic grins of his teenage grandchildren and his daughter.
I had scheduled a Zoom happy hour with friends in Idaho and wanted Ron to participate since he’s devoted to them. He didn’t have the Zoom app. Also, he ‘d forgotten his password to the app store, didn’t know how to retrieve it, and no one at his facility helped him do it.
I sent him a link, but that only confused him. In the end, he participated by audio through my cellphone held up to my desktop and repeatedly told our friends how wonderful it was to hear their voices.
A ready tech assistant could have helped Ron connect to Zoom or Microsoft Teams or another meeting format, through which he and his fellow poker players could hold virtual cutthroat games. That would have led the book club to meet and discuss the merits of their latest read.
When I recently told Ron that I was Zooming into a religious service, he ‘d enjoyed with me on many occasions, and he said, wistfully: “I would love to do that.”
I’ve dropped off magazines and homemade scones at the facility’s gate during the tightly regulated two drop-offs per week, which hasn’t extended his world or challenged his brain during this isolation.
How Tech Assistance Could Help:
With assistance from a tech staffer, he could seek out books on public radio, connect to history, arts, and culture websites, bringing performances, lectures, and more. If he had received help add the necessary hardware for streaming capability, he could have been enjoying a spectrum of films, documentaries, or travel videos about places he’d now never visit due to Parkinson’s.
In years past, this intrepid traveler went with me to Vietnam, Turkey, Chile, the Republic of Georgia, and more. I know the ability to venture to places he’s dreamed about virtually could remove him– however briefly– from his confinement.
Senior residences should also have an intra-facility/in-house television channel to broadcast to TV sets in every unit. After all, TVs are one piece of furniture everyone owns. A dedicated channel could show the same old-timey movies that would have entertained residents in the community room, exercise programs, and videos of exciting speakers or musicians.
A weekly guide could arrive with breakfast on Monday mornings, detailing the week’s programs’ schedule, a substitute for the chirpy calendar of monthly activities that they had posted everywhere in the facility during standard times.
What Senior Care Community Leaders Might Say:
I suspect that care communities like Ron’s might argue against my proposal because adding dedicated tech staffers for residents would be too expensive. The service would be difficult to enact, they ‘d say. They might counter, if residents wanted to be digitally connected, their families should have assured them that they were when they moved in.
Senior residences cheerfully advertise themselves as the perfect place for the over-65 demographic. The ideal place must include care for the whole person– both body and mind.
These capabilities offered by the senior communities Next Avenue wrote. I’m sorry Ron is not living at one of them.
Ron, my significant other of 25 years, is a retired psychologist with Parkinson’s Disease. However, when the coronavirus began to invade south Louisiana, Ron’s assisted-living facility responded with a reaction that I would call extreme and absolute, no doubt derived from a fear of contagion and a concern for their liability. All visitors except caregivers were barred; neither Ron’s daughter and grandchildren nor I could visit. I had scheduled a Zoom happy hour with friends in Idaho and wanted Ron to participate since he’s devoted to them. I suspect that care communities like Ron’s might argue against my proposal because adding dedicated tech staffers for residents would be too expensive.