“And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke
For years I’ve thought fondly of the quote from Rilke whenever January rolled around. The words “things that have never been” sound so full of promise. But this past year, much of what the new year brought us looked more like the evils swooshing out of Pandora’s box than things of wonder.
In 2020 we had to deal with world-wild pestilence and with civil strife. We’ve been denied comforts, such as the presence of friends and hugging loved ones. We’ve been denied joys, such as concerts, ball games, dancing, and travel. We’ve had to manage anxiety, fear, economic harm, and no end of the upheaval of our plans and routines.
It hasn’t been easy for anyone. But still, a new year has come around yet again, and, looking back, I do find a few things to be deeply grateful for.
Our quick-thinking, committed nursing staff!
In early spring, as soon as we realized what we were dealing with, our RNs put their heads together and devised ways of keeping everyone as safe as possible in a situation for which we’ve had no precedent or preparation. By the third week in March, they had created a system for daily reports from each employee documenting their temperature, any symptoms they might be experiencing, and any exposure they may have had.
They sent out letters to every client and caregiver outlining infection control protocols and our expectations concerning mask-wearing, hand-washing and distancing within the home care setting. They began using video calls with our home health aides to accomplish their annual skills assessments remotely.
Equally committed help from our office staff
By the end of March, we had driven all over Somerset and Middlesex Counties, delivering masks, instructions, and hand sanitizers to our clients and staff. We switched gears to have far fewer people in the office on any given day and added four Hepa air purifiers.
We learned ways to do parts of our hiring process remotely
Caring, brave home health aides and understanding clients
Running a business that requires closeness and physical contact during a pandemic is a challenge. Some clients and some caregivers understandably decided to take some time off. But many adapted and found new ways to work together as safely as possible. Many clients expressed to us how relieved they were that they could get the care they need in their homes’ relative safety.
No, health professionals, doctors, and scientists are not omniscient. They had much to learn about this new virus. But I’m profoundly grateful for the expertise and dedication they brought to the urgent task of finding ways to keep us safe. We humans can be pretty proud of what we have been able to accomplish.
At ComForCare we are in the process of working on getting as many staff as possible vaccinated so that we can begin to return to something closer to normal. As home care workers who interact with a vulnerable population, we can receive our vaccinations now, and I’m getting mine on January 7.
Understandably, some people have qualms about taking a new vaccine, but the cost-benefit trade-off is clear for me. As I get my vaccination, I won’t be thinking about possible side effects. I’ll be thinking about visiting clients with less fear of spreading infection, of being able to hug my daughter and mother-in-law, of being able to visit and laugh again with my brother and his family.
At the bottom of Pandora’s mythic box, hope was hiding. In 2021, hope might look a lot like a medical technician bearing a needle.
Happy New Year, everyone.