One Year in Quarantine: Caregivers Share Trials & Triumphs

 

by Laurie Mason, program coordinator

March 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of California’s shelter-in-place orders. While many, clearing the shelves of toilet paper, anticipated an inexplicable increase in bathroom visits, others assured themselves everything would go back to normal in six weeks. No one yet grasped that March 14, 2020 was to begin a full year of masks, social distancing, loneliness and all the Netflix shows. 

Nonetheless, while kids missed graduations and adults fashioned dining rooms into offices, and we all weathered the shock of seeing ourselves on Zoom for the first time (to quote Nora Ephron, “I feel bad about my neck.”), we grew used to our new normal. 

However disorienting it was, none were more impacted than family caregivers caring for a spouse or parent with dementia.

To mark this one-year anniversary, we asked seven caregivers the following two questions. Feelings of isolation and frustration were common, but all have found ways to cope.

  • What challenges have you faced?
  • What have you been able to do to cope?

Caregiver of husband:

  • Isolation. I had to suspend teaching piano. My husband doesn’t talk much, and no one could come into the house. The loss of sending my husband to Friendship Center, hugging family and friends, cooking and the planning of meals and avoiding the grocery store is a huge challenge. I have so much time to myself; I feel numb from having the TV on all day. I feel an inability to be motivated by anything such as planning trips.
  • Playing the piano for church Zoom meetings and using Instacart has been helpful. I still miss friends and family! I got vaccinated. Friendship Center Zoom classes for my husband and hired home care 16 hours a week helps, but I still feel the impact.

Live-in caregiver of mother:

  • Keeping Mom occupied and not losing my temper has been challenging.
  • I signed her up for your Zoom program, and purchased some games and activities on Amazon to use with her. My temper … sometimes I can keep my mouth shut, and sometimes I can’t. It’s an ongoing struggle. (We hear you!)

Caregiver of mother:

  • Keeping our mom safe when she doesn’t understand the pandemic and the importance of wearing a mask.
  • We were fortunate to keep our mom isolated with very limited contact, even with family members. With six siblings, we decided to have one family caregiver at first, then expanded to two. Other family members could visit outside at a distance. We were thrilled when our mom was able to be vaccinated, but that was also a challenge! Thankfully, she is now fully vaccinated and other family members are also getting their vaccines.
  • Gratefully, Friendship Center includes masks in Take Care Totes! Signs posted and others wearing masks convinced her to put on her mask. Rest assured that she removed it as soon as possible despite their beauty!
  • Friendship Center Bingo has been a wonderful addition to our mom’s pandemic routine. She looks forward to seeing the regular attendees and she loves to win.

Caregiver of husband:

  • Not getting to visit my grandchildren and great grandchildren, not getting to hug them.
  • Not supposed to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, the doctor wants me to stay at home.
  • After admitting my husband to nursing care for rehab, I wasn’t allowed to visit him.

Solutions:

  • Facetime with my grandchildren (no hugs, but at least we could see them).
  • I use Walgreens Pharmacy in Goleta that has a drive-thru for prescriptions and order other items online. Amazon loves me.
  • For food, Kim at the Friendship Center arranged for us to have prepared meals delivered, which was an immense help to me.
  • I call my husband several times a day, we always touch base in the evening to say goodnight and share the events of the day. I take him his favorite takeout food sometimes.
  • My husband loves to tune into Friendship Center Zoom activities. He especially likes Trivia. I also take him the treats and puzzles that are included in the monthly Take Care Totes.

Caregiver of husband:

My two biggest challenges during the pandemic are keeping my husband happy and safe. These are  actually the two biggest challenges I had before the pandemic but it now takes more effort and imagination to maintain a happy and safe environment.
Every day I try to introduce new activities and to spend time remembering positive things and people from his earlier life that he remembers so vividly. 
The lack of in-person socialization with friends and family has created a huge void, but with the virtual program so professionally designed and presented by the Friendship Center, Jim is still feeling very connected as well as challenged. Every day  he looks forward to and is very happy to interact with the loving staff and familiar faces. 
I honestly don’t think we could survive without the friendship and support  of the  Friendship Center during this very difficult time. You make every day special and I am so grateful for everything you do!

Caregiver of husband:

The challenges of caregiving during this past year’s Covid Pandemic has not been a walk for the weak. It has taken a “Village” to ease the caregiver’s travel along the winding twists and turns within their path’s journey. As a vital partner at the core of the Village, Friendship Center became a guiding compass and supportive walking stick to expand the most valuable assets of time and energy in navigating this path.
There are many ways in which Friendship Center expands time and energy renewal for its members and the individuals within their outreach to the community. It guides connections to resources for home delivered meal programs. Having meals delivered to your doorstep definitely releases meal-prep and shopping time.
Friendship Center also provides daily interactive virtual-programming including games with a purpose, stories and discussions, singing, art, and exercise workouts along with the most popular Bingo games. Such activities release beneficial time periods for the restoration of cognitive energy to caregivers. These programmed activities further expand social connections for the caregiver’s loved one.
The golden assets of time for restorative energy allows caregivers to provide enriched care for their loved ones. Thus it is with gratitude that Friendship Center and their staff certainly become a significant part of the “Village.” There is something very comforting in having Friendship Center as a guiding compass and a big sturdy walking stick to ease the winding journey of the caregiver’s path.

Caregiver of husband:

My two biggest challenges during the pandemic are keeping my husband happy and safe. These are  actually the two biggest challenges I had before the pandemic but it now takes more effort and imagination to maintain a happy and safe environment.
Every day I try to introduce new activities and to spend time remembering positive things and people from his earlier life that he remembers so vividly. 
The lack of in-person socialization with friends and family has created a huge void, but with the virtual program so professionally designed and presented by the Friendship Center, Jim is still feeling very connected as well as challenged. Every day  he looks forward to and is very happy to interact with the loving staff and familiar faces. 
I honestly don’t think we could survive without the friendship and support  of the  Friendship Center during this very difficult time. You make every day special and I am so grateful for everything you do!