Reflecting on coronavirus is a pastime for many people. Now the government have dedicated a day to it.
What is the National Day of Reflection?
March 23rd is a National Day of Reflection on the Pandemic for the bereaved, for the victims, and I hope, for those who sacrificed months of their lives.
I was one of those front line staff for much of it. Care home management is difficult – during a pandemic it is nigh on impossible. I was deputy manager. I was already stressed before the unthinkable hit.
What do I reflect upon?
The exhaustion etched on the faces of colleagues as they gave more and more to the elderly people in their care. The strength as they fended off the concerns of their own families. The fear as they looked at their own parents and children and wondered each day if they had brought them a death sentence. And I often reflect upon their exasperated pain as they were branded as cruel and inhuman by a media who jumped on the wrong bandwagon.
Claims that elderly people were locked away in their rooms, caged like animals were probably correct; because we were TOLD we had to! It was not the home’s choice. Were the residents neglected…left to die…ignored…starved…NO! We did our best to stay and chat from behind the masks and aprons. Yet still we stood accused of not caring.
Those without memory loss missed their visitors. Those with dementia were at danger of becoming isolated with their own thoughts. With nothing to remind them of what their normality was, they only had their emotions to lead them. I was dementia care coach, charged with training and coaching staff and yet here we were, forced to walk the same people back to the same rooms time and time again. So wrong. All they wanted was company…we did what we could.
I reflect on the anger and frustration of staff. These underpaid, undervalued, disrespected most caring of people. Staff who were then accused by all sections of society of wrongdoing. Selfless souls who had risked it all.
How did care staff cope?
I exorcised a few ghosts by writing poetry. Dementia can make life unbearable – with good care it can be the greatest of fun. But keeping these fragile individuals within their four walls was torture for them. And us.
We became everything for these people. But we could not be everywhere at the same time and fill in those “oh so important” forms.
But the ghosts I exorcised still shouted and screamed; I gave up. It was too much and I bailed out. I wrote about that previously – there’s even a poem!
Reflecting on the good…
But too, I will remember the words of a friend from a different home. One that was hit badly by death after death. One Thursday evening at around 19:50 a police car drew up in their car park, followed by a second and third. The staff on duty were already mentally and emotionally spent – what else was about to befall them?
She wept as she related this tale. And it still brings tears to my eyes. At 20:00 hours, the police got out of their vehicles and applauded the care staff.
Wow…just wow! God bless whoever thought of that!
I shall reflect also on the kind gifts from businesses and the town council. But more so on the little kindnesses from local people, especially children, and those relatives who realised the sacrifices these carers were making on behalf of their parents.
Those small gestures often had the hardest of us weeping. We were spent, frightened and disillusioned. The cards of support, the pizzas and hand creams, the words of thanks gave us the strength to face another shift.
It is restoring to reflect on those considerate people and remember the good that there is in this world.
Reflecting on the rest of life
It is a good day for reflecting on life in general. To hold up a mirror and meditate on what you see in the glass.
Look back across the years – not to ruminate on past mistakes and hurts but to see just how far you have come.
Regretting the past is a habit many of us succumb to – regrets change nothing. Resentment can flourish if it is nourished. (Yes, I like poetry…whole life poetry!)
Looking back and berating yourself for what you did or did not do serves no purpose. It is a toxic meditation which locks you into an endless spiral downwards into depression.
So why do we do it? I wish I knew – it becomes a habit. That inner chatter which becomes self destructive can drown out everything else.
Why not reflect on times that you enjoyed. Reflecting on positive experiences is good for your health! Look for times when you felt confident or when you made a difference to someone else. Times when the sun shone and everything was aligned for you. Use that mirror to boost your self esteem. Instead of focusing on the bad, find the good.
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