Essential Caregivers Visit Loved Ones in Memory Care

September 18, 2020

Arlen Solem

The experience of time passing during COVID-19 may have been different for those in memory care

For just over a month now, essential caregivers have been able to go to a variety of senior care facilities across the state and be reunited with their loved one from whom they had been cut off for so long. 

Reunions: Finally Visiting Loved Ones

At Emerald Crest in Shakopee, I have been overjoyed to see many of these reunions first-hand. So many husbands, wives, children, and other people integral in the lives of our residents have finally been allowed inside. They’ve been able to touch, to talk in person and see face to face-shield their loved one, without looking through a window or sitting outside and distanced with a staff person present.

It has reinforced for me just how much so many of our essential caregivers do for their loved ones, and how much they did prior to the pandemic. Beyond the crucial emotional support, many essential caregivers did some light housekeeping when they would visit our residents. So many different little things that add up to a lot: making sure there was a good supply of snacks, changing hearing aid batteries, ensuring that mom had her make-up, or finding a lost earring. 

How Time Passed in Memory Care

There has also been a strange phenomenon that has happened. I would not have predicted this phenomenon but in thinking about it, it does not surprise me.

Our essential caregivers had been waiting and worrying. Waiting to see their loved one in person and worrying if they ever would be able to, and worrying about the physical and cognitive changes that may have taken place since they were last able to be present in person. Many knew the exact number of days. 

Many of our residents knew something of the pandemic. Many knew their friends and family were not allowed inside. Other residents had little specific knowledge but seemed to know that things were different. Still others seemed to be completely unaware.

Visiting after so long

At long last, these two groups would meet. So many essential caregivers were so excited and filled with a mixture of joy and trepidation. After donning face mask and face shield, temperature taken, hands washed, and screening questions answered, these essential caregivers were led to their loved one’s room to see the person they had not seen in over 150 days. 

“Hi Mom, it’s so good to see you! It’s been so long! How have you been?”

And often the response would go something like this, “Oh, hi. Yeah, I guess it has been a while.  I know you’ve been busy though. Have a seat.”  Glad to see their loved ones, but not overjoyed. Not a long overdue reunion. For many of our residents the 150 days seemed more like 15 days. For others even less.

Many essential caregivers were surprised at the subdued response. It could be a little disappointing when you have so much enthusiasm and it is met with a lukewarm response. 

But most of the essential caregivers I talked to are, like me, not surprised in retrospect. The passage of time is so different for our residents. People with dementia are much more constantly in the present in this way. 

The past six months, our experiences and theirs

Our world, our country, and our metropolitan area have gone through so much the last six months. Even our residents who know something about the pandemic have not been living with the changes and the fear and the uncertainty about what any day may bring. They haven’t worried about what would be open and closed, or what prudent decisions they need to make in their lives for their safety and that of others. Our residents never worried about toilet paper shortages. Our residents were unaware and unaffected by curfews and rioting and police brutality. This has been a long six months and there is still little certainty. 

But by and large, for our residents, there has been only one big change: people don’t come and visit; people stay in their rooms more, attend fewer activities, and eat apart from others while everyone working wears masks and face shields. This didn’t all happen exactly at once, but it happened in pretty short order. Again, awareness of even this varied from resident to resident.

Thinking about all of this, it is not so surprising how emotionally charged these reunions were for essential caregivers, while how relatively mundane they could be for our residents.

It is also comforting, in a way, to reflect on the responses of so many of our residents. The subdued ‘hello, good to see you too’ response is also a reflection that most of our residents have been doing ok for the last six months. They largely have not felt isolated, they have not been full of worry, they have not been miserable. 

In many ways, it is a good thing that our residents, upon seeing their loved one for the first time, didn’t jump out of their seats, cry tears of joy and relief, hug them and exclaim, “Oh honey, I thought I’d never see you again. It’s been so long. I love you so much. It nearly killed me to be apart for so long.”

For some essential caregivers, that might have felt good in the moment and it might be what many of the essential caregivers were feeling, but it would have meant that our residents were more likely miserable during the last several months. We are happy they weren’t miserable. We’re glad they’ve been doing ok. A big hug and a little enthusiasm would have been nice, but it’s ok that it didn’t happen.

You are blessed to be reunited, even if it is not the same as before. Our residents are blessed by your presence being more fully in their lives again. Our staff is blessed by your presence and your help and they are joyful as well watching these long-awaited reunions.

Reverend Arlen Solem

Chaplain and Campus Pastor

Thank you so much to all of our volunteers and donors who make all of the work we do at Cassia possible. Your contributions are greatly appreciated and needed to ensure we are able to fulfill our mission.

For questions about our spiritual care program, or if you would like spiritual care and support for you or your loved one, contact Chaplain Arlen Solem at 612-263-0503. or apsolem@augustanacare.org.

At Emerald Crest, we offer a deep knowledge of memory care in a specialized assisted living setting for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions. We encourage you to contact us directly with any questions or request a tour. For tours and general information, please contact Christine Drasher at 952-908-2215.

Emerald Crest by Augustana Care provides memory care in a unique environment, specifically designed to support those with cognitive issues. Utilizing this exceptional model of care, individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s and related conditions can flourish in positive relationships and participation in meaningful activities. Memory care is offered in the Minneapolis – Saint Paul area with communities in four convenient locations: ShakopeeBurnsvilleMinnetonka and Victoria, MN.

 

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Quotes

For my mother's memory care needs, my father and family love the "at home" feel versus the institutional setting of some of the other options. Easy access, great staff and great care reinforce our decision.

— Mark, son of resident

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