Sanctuary: A place of refuge or safety. -Merriam Webster
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” -Bob Dylan
Like much else in our economy right now, there is a push to re-open assisted living homes and nursing homes. Last week, I joined a group of nationally recognized professionals discussing just this topic. Everyone on the 6-a.m. call wanted to advocate for the many struggling families and their elders.
I came into this discussion because I got frustrated and angry. After spending several days obsessing over video lectures and Facebook posts that blamed facilities for mistreating elders and their families and venting to my Vista family and friends, I sent an email to the Positive Approach to Care (PAC) about their Community Care Circle Round Table Discussion. Positive Approach to Care, founded by Teepa Snow, has developed deeply meaningful approaches to Dementia Care for decades. This group has focused on showing elders facing dementia respect and compassion and is an amazing resource. PAC has also been working with families to face the many painful issues that have arisen due to COVID and the isolation procedures that this virus has brought. My thought was that my email would either just get deleted or ignored. The opposite happened. Vista was invited to join this discussion about “Creating a Map for the Future During COVID” that respects elders and families. What Vista offers is a way to both protect elders and nurture families while allowing elders to have a vital, connected and joyful life.
Last count, 50,779 elders have died in assisted living and nursing homes. In total, that’s 45% of all COVID-related deaths in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control. These numbers are brutal reminders that our elders constitute some of our most vulnerable populations. But, how do we get past this? How do we create safe institutions and allow elders to have a full life? How can we give their families the connection and love they need while protecting just those elders? How, as caregivers, do we make this all work? And are there ways of providing sanctuary and support to our community of caregivers? I often wonder whether eldercare can positively grow as a result of the trauma of illness our society is facing.