If you missed me I have been busily acclimating to a new position located in Long Term Care. The staff and leaders have the emotional and psychological scars that occur when under great stress, grief, and locus of control is wrenched and a home for the aged is transformed into a fortress.
Today a colleague, and new friend, shared the tragic loss she is experiencing for a dear friend whose spouse lost his battle with COVID-19. The sobering statistics of cases, fueled by the variants, the ICU beds capacity dwindling and surely the stressors to make life and death decisions constantly are taking their toll on the health care teams. Yet it is listening to the impact of one man’s death on many lives, the personal and professional lives that fought the virus, prayed for his recovery, and even the rituals of funerals and mourning that are affected by lockdowns and limits of gatherings.
Funerals are for the living, to commemorate the life of a family member, friend, colleague, neighbour, etc., to share prayers, words of remembrance, shed tears alone and with others as we feel the loss of a human soul. It is challenging enough to lose one life, this pandemic year + it is thousands of lives. The first and second waves slammed into our Long Term Care residences revealing vulnerabilities identified in 30+ reports, studies, papers, and a series of governments that intervened minimally, ineffectively, and alarms were identified numerous times.
Aging infrastructure, changes in the demographics of LTC residents who are now older, frailer, and the number of residents with cognitive impairments is growing in size and severity. The unit I manage I am humbled by the tales of getting through COVID-19, having the virus, feeling the losses of multiple residents, transforming practices that impacted the residents and staff. Family separation for many months has negatively affected the cognition of many residents, who many will have shortened lifespans because of the social isolation. Seniors have much in common with young children (another vulnerable cohort) they want to love, be loved, be kept safe, share stories, and celebrate milestones.
Getting vaccinated is one priority, distributing the vaccine to the right people in vulnerable neighbourhoods, workplaces, and is no one going to protect workers by mandating paid sick time? Advocacy can occur virtually, health care workers have experiences to share because they have lived through it. We face some challenging months ahead as the health care system is stretched to a breaking point–nurses especially experienced ones are leaving their jobs. They have had it, they’re beyond burned out, the ranks have thinned and it’s affecting patient care. Who is performing triage in ERs, who will keep critical care units functioning without the skilled sentinels, the epitome of nursing assessment and timely interventions? Who is going to inspire the young professionals? How are the leaders of health care going to manage?
Unconditional love is one strategy, evidence based transformational leadership, there are clinicians/managers/healers ready and able to intervene in the current minefield of COVID-19. I ask everyone acknowledge the efforts of Personal Support Workers so many who are hurting in body, mind, and spirit–it can be seen in their eyes, it can be heard as they redirect frail souls and synergy is possible. We need a robust methodology to heal the caregivers, or face more loss and negative health outcomes. All levels of government need to join in the investment of a health not diseased system. Namaste
Registered Nurse Storyteller, Healer, Scribe, Transformational Leader