In the United States and around the world, the elderly are frequently feeling the brunt of loneliness. In Delaware this isolation has affected my grandparents, Claire and Bob Bodycot, who have been separated by the pandemic for the first time since they were married in 1953.
Delaware’s Governor John Carney closed businesses deemed unnecessary and nursing homes were put on lockdown, as the state has now seen over 4,700 cases and about 152 deaths as of the end of April.
Claire has dementia and lives in one of those nursing homes. Her husband, who used to visit her every day, has not seen her in over a month. For my elderly grandparents this change of social practices, like going out for walks, having visitors, or going to public places has been overwhelming.
Each day, the only contact my grandmother has from my grandfather or family members is through video calls that her nursing home facilitates.
“It’s tough not being able to see her in person every day but I know it’s for the best,” Bob said. ”We have to get over this virus and get back to normal life.”
Video calls are being offered by the nursing home with two iPads that family members call that are then distributed to residents. Contact can sometimes be short due to many families wanting to speak with their loved ones, but this is the new reality for my family and grandfather.
While he continues to adjust to the idea of being isolated in his home, unable to go out, he worries about his wife. Nursing homes as have been shown around the world, are prime opportunities for COVID-19 to spread. Bob follows the family’s wishes, knowing both he and his wife are vulnerable, and has kept a positive attitude.
He says he tries to pass on hopefulness to my grandmother when they speak, with him in his kitchen and her in her nursing home bed.
“I hope they are able to keep everything under control because this virus seems like it can spread rapidly,” Bob said. “I just hope they continue to do the right thing for people in the nursing homes.”
To limit my grandfather’s risk I have begun to make every trip to the grocery store for him, ensuring he gets the supplies he needs. He is unable to go himself because my family has insisted he remain in his home, but the reality of staying inside all this time is not too much of a worry for him.
“I don’t like making trips to the grocery store anyway,” Bob said. “I don’t mind not going out, but I know that going out right now would be a huge risk, so I’m heeding the governor’s advice.”
My own fear of this illness for my grandfather is only compounded when I am confronted weekly with barren toiletry shelves, and low inventory or rationing of other items. Many times I must make the unfortunate call to my grandfather to tell him the store doesn’t have what he needs.
For a man who is nearing 89 years he has experienced much in his lifetime, World War Two, the Korean War, assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and 9/11. He takes all of this with the knowledge and confidence that we and this nation will get through this hardship too, no matter how hard we have to work.
“We’ve gotten through tough times before,” Bob said, “We’ll do it again.”