“It’s going to be ok. I am here for you. You will be at peace. Hail Mary full of grace…” I’m examining her face. She has such a beautiful glow to her skin, as if she aged in reverse in a matter of hours. She appears at peace, but she has shallow breathing. Her mouth open; eyes open but focused on heaven. Although she has had dementia for several years, the coronavirus has chosen her. I wish her life didn’t have to end this way. I rub her hand with my plastic covered thumb as it’s cupped in hers. As she’s passing, there is nothing I can do, as these were her wishes. All of sudden, I wake up drenched in sweat, breathing heavy. Within a few seconds, I realized I was just dreaming, but was I really?
Working with individuals with dementia who have contracted COVID-19 has been rewarding yet incredibly challenging. After a few of these nightmares, I realized quite quickly, I don’t want to go down this road again. I experienced PTSD after a traumatic pre-doctoral internship working with individuals who committed crimes and had serious mental illness. I couldn’t go through that again. Having this insight has been tremendously helpful for me. I reached into my toolbox that day, after that last nightmare, and started using my coping skills more readily. The trauma had snuck up on me, but I was prepared. I enhanced my essential oil regimen, consciously made time to exercise, and stopped buying that cement ice cream mixer because it was good going in but made me feel like crap afterwards,
The world has experienced such adversity in the last few months. Adversity can bring on diverse reactions based on individuals’ abilities to cope either in a productive or self-defeating manner. Health comes in different forms - cognitive, emotional/mental, physical, diet, spiritual. These are at the very helm to keep us going. These last few months have been traumatic for many and could have easily taken people down the road to poor health. In talking to others, they’ve shared stories of gaining the quarantine 15, have stopped practicing their faith, imbibed in alcohol or drugs way more than they should, have chosen to isolate rather than being asked to, etc. Do you fall into this category? Are you at the crossroads of “I either need to get back on track to be healthy or I’m going down the wrong path.” Or perhaps you treat or care for patients or residents who are experiencing this. Trauma or adverse times can often lead to alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity, eating disorders, depression, severe anxiety and more, when not dealt with early on.
I encourage you, right now...reach into your toolbox of coping skills. What are your favs? Is it empty? Choose the path to get back on track. Do it for you, for your family, co-workers, patients, clients, residents - whoever will drive you down that road to positivity. Things aren’t back to normal for any of us, and maybe you are still in a position of adversity, however, continuing down the path of negativity isn’t going to help. Put those coping skills in your hands today. Schedule when you will use your coping skills, so “life” doesn’t get in the way.
Remember this motto when you need a little boost - “Got tools?”
-- Dr. Jennifer Stelter