Finding Joy (While Working in Long Term Care in a Global Pandemic)

My face hurts and I’m dehydrated. I feel like I spend most of my day putting on PPE, taking off PPE, washing my hands/arms and applying hand sanitizer. I worry about our residents, I worry about my family, I worry about my coworkers, and I worry about myself. I want us to be healthy, but I also long for the days we could walk around without N95 respirators and goggles. I wonder if we’ll ever be back to “normal”. I don’t worry about getting sick myself as much as I worry about inadvertently making someone else sick, and that they will not recover. I feel obligated to tell people where I work, so that they can make the decision about whether or not they want to be around me. Even casual exchanges with people leave me analyzing my actions, to assure that I have not put anyone else at undo risk. I feel like a pariah just by virtue of my occupation and location of employment. Overall, there is just a lot more worry in my days than there was 9 months ago (and just ask anyone who knows me…I’ve always been a bit of a worrier!).

On many days, I say to myself (and often my coworkers), “I don’t want to do this anymore.” It doesn’t seem like my work as a PT in a nursing home is really benefiting anyone. I try to think what we look like to our residents with Alzheimer’s/dementia who already forget our faces from interaction to interaction. Are we scary to them when we walk around with half of our faces covered and these weird shields or goggles obscuring our features even more? Do we cause them increased feelings of anxiousness when they are already isolated from their loved ones? I try to be reassuring and helpful, but is it enough? My heart breaks for them when they cry because they miss their families, or when they feel so sick that the things I know they usually love to do are the things that are furthest from their minds. It feels like we are all just trying to keep our heads above water until this whole thing passes, and our turn to suffer the wrath that is the COVID-storm is over…which will hopefully actually happen at some point in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how many more will get sick, or how many more we will lose before this whole thing runs its course (is that even what will happen? I don’t even know what to think anymore), but thinking about it makes my head spin and my heart ache. This sickness has drained a lot of the joy out of my work days (and I am pretty sure I’m not alone in that feeling).

But, do you know what brings a smile to my face in the middle of all of this noise? Laughing with the ladies I work with, because let’s be honest, know one understands the struggle of re-breathing your own air, or finding out that every single one of your patients from the day before just tested positive for COVID, like those who are down in it with you. I love when we are silly, and salty, and say what’s on our minds without fear of judgment. I love getting the opportunity to help one of our residents up when they finally feel well enough to sit up in a chair for awhile. I love the feeling of a breeze and the afternoon sunshine on my face when I go out for a run after a stressful day spent under layers of PPE. I love hiking with my family on the weekend. Nothing beats spending hours exploring the woods and climbing over rocks with the ones I love the most. It’s easy to get dragged down into a spiral of negative thoughts these days, but tough things also make the good stuff that much sweeter, and it makes us appreciate the little things that we didn’t realize were so important. I am thankful that even when times are hard, God still provides us with joyful outlets if we seek them out.

Family hike on the Loyalsock Trail

“Blessed is the person who keeps on going when times are hard. After they have come through hard times, this person will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. The Lord has promised it to those who love him.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

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