By FATHER JOHN KIERAN | Published April 16, 2020
Living in a retirement home adds an extra challenge in the battle against COVID-19. Many sequestered seniors say, “I don’t know what to do with myself; I have so much time on my hands!”
Boredom is a serious problem for the isolated and can lead to depression. Typical is the person who aimlessly walks the corridors without purpose or destination.
Being sequestered is not normal, so its effects are also abnormal, even frightening. Consider children anxious about their elderly loved ones locked down or hospitalized who may not receive family or visitors. The natural deep love and concern family members have for their frail seniors seems to be crushed by health directors. Tough love is hard to take positively when family members are cut off or quarantined. My 89-year-old neighbor says the present confinement is like the Nazi occupation she experienced—separated from family and not knowing their fate or whereabouts.
New challenges call for new solutions. I recall my father’s standard advice during trying times: “stay busy.” That was easy on the farm where work had to go on. Still that counsel is good for most situations as it calls for: intention, planning and hands on work.
First be intentional, be focused and don’t let the dreaded virus kill your spirits or verve for life. All should take heart in the reports of creative speedy production to make test kits and safety gear and let that be an incentive to creatively occupy the time at home. Let it be a time to learn, teach, write, pray or take part in another positive activity to exercise mind and body. Keep regular hours, keep day and night distinct. Have a plan for each day which includes some project or activity that gives satisfaction and a sense of achievement. Follow author William Ward’s four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.
And always live by our national motto, “In God We Trust.” Pray in union with the Psalmist: “Say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust…’ He will rescue you from the destroying pestilence.” (Ps 91:2-3)
Father John C. Kieran, senior priest, serves on the chaplaincy team at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur.