Feeling sad amid COVID crisis

Lately a lot of people have been asking me how I’m doing. They know I work with seniors.

I’ve been answering that question by simply saying we’re very busy. I’d like to elaborate, but the truth is, I’m having a hard time processing all I am feeling.

There are a lot of challenging, and some heartbreaking, situations that have come to us during this pandemic, bringing me great sadness and making me think just how hard life can be.

I took a call from a 90-year-old couple who were asking if we could grocery shop for them. They were terrified of leaving their home for fear of getting sick. They’d been seeing reports on TV of doctors making choices to treat younger, healthier patients over the elderly and allowing the elderly to die. The wife told me they did not want to die that way.

A few days ago, a woman called who was set to move herself and her husband, who is disabled, into an assisted-living facility that day. She had called the facility’s staffers just as the door closed on the moving van to tell them she was on her way. They told her she could not come.

We both guessed that there may have been a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, but now she had nowhere to go.

One of our support group members called our care manager at Senior Concerns asking for a compassionate ear. She was beside herself. Her husband, who suffers from dementia, had fallen and was in great pain. She called the hospital and was told her husband would have to come into the ER by himself, which was, of course, impossible. Her regular doctor is not seeing patients, and she was at a loss as to what to do.

One senior’s husband of 63 years died. She was overcome with grief and unable to see her friends or hold a funeral during the pandemic. She is filled with heartache and is feeling incredibly alone.

It’s hard for me to process the enormity of these situations for these individuals, especially while at the same time I am seeing so many beautiful gestures of kindness and support.

Senior Concerns put out a call for volunteers, and in less than two weeks we had 75 people who had provided applications and background checks, eager to help in any way they could. These volunteers are picking up groceries, delivering meals, delivering food from our pantry and making friendly check-in calls to homebound seniors. These people were not part of Senior Concerns’ world a few weeks ago, but they are now.

I have never spoken to so many city officials as I have over these last few weeks. These representatives really care. They’re asking if we have needs, how can they help the seniors in their community, and they are staying in touch as situations unfold.

Individual donors are sending in checks, and amazing organizations like Meals on Wheels of America and the SCAN Foundation have provided emergency funds to keep us up and running as we roll out new services to meet emerging needs.

Islands restaurants in Agoura Hills and Newbury Park are making weekly donations of chicken veggie teriyaki bowls to feed homebound seniors. Atmosphere Church brought us a pickup truck full of donations of much-needed items like water, paper products and nonperishable food for our pantry to help low-income homebound seniors.

Young children are making cards and writing letters for us to deliver to seniors. They’re sharing details on their days and asking how the seniors are faring in this unique situation. They are also offering words of comfort. These connections are precious.

As the leader of Senior Concerns, my heart breaks for the 15 people we have had to furlough. At the same time, I’ve never been prouder of our skeleton crew who are still working to provide much needed services.

It’s hard to hold in my brain these two opposite feelings—profound sadness for the people who are going through such incredibly tough situations and gratitude for the humble kindness of others.

A part of me wants to take some time to grieve the sadness that surrounds us, but right now I feel like I don’t have time. That is why I say about the situation: “We are busy.”

I am learning though, that it’s important to give yourself time to grieve and process the extreme sadness we are seeing.

For me, staying busy actively helping seniors is my way of coping. It gives me something good to focus on.

I encourage you to look for the kindness in our community and temper the good with bad. This will help us all get through this time as best we can.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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