One of the best things in life is a road trip. Taking a drive to a new place, or a familiar one, can be an adventure. One of things you can always expect is to hear during a road trip is the question, “Are we there yet?” It can seem to take an eternity to reach a destination, especially when we can’t wait to get there, wherever that is.
How are we getting there?
Another familiar travel-related phrase is, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” That phrase is supposed to help give us perspective, to help us focus not just on where we are headed, but on how we get there. In this time of the coronavirus, we are compelled to focus on where we are going, as well as how we are getting there. But what is there? How will we know when we will get there? And how long is that supposed to take?
Where are we headed?
For people working in long term care and the residents they support, wherever “there” is, we cannot arrive fast enough. There have been some restrictions lifted, some changes, but everything is seemingly the same. We do not really know where the finish line is. We have some ideas, like being able to go out without being socially distant. It might also be that we do not have to wear masks everywhere.
Will we really get there?
Will we really know when we are past this quarantine? There is a lot of conversation about the new normal. It should mean that we can visit loved ones in the nursing home without restrictions. It should also mean we recognize how we got here, to the place of isolating people from loved ones in order to maintain safety. Or making formal caregivers work harder and longer just to maintain a safe environment.
In thinking about the journey during the COVID-19 quarantine, we really do need to think about how we get to the other side. We must also think about what led to this quarantine. We need to know what we should do differently if we are ever in this situation again.
What do we do when we get there?
We need to value older adults and their caregivers. We must consider our response to the coronavirus and put in place the necessary structures to prevent the social isolation that resulted. There must be better measures than that. More importantly, we should provide better support for residents in long term care, as well as their formal caregivers. It means valuing caregiving enough to honor and preserve it, and not sacrifice those who provide it for the sake of safety.
We need to not only enjoy getting past this time, but especially focus on where we go from here.
Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; firstname.lastname@example.org