Julianne RizzoBy Julianne Rizzo, RN, BSN, MBA, CSA

I was sitting in nursing school a few decades ago and distinctly remember my instructor saying, “A pandemic will never happen in our lifetime here in the USA!” Which then made “pandemic” one of the words to remember on an exam, but not to give it too much thought. Well here we are in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic and all it does is consume my thoughts, so I thought I would share them with you.

As a nurse I follow science and my head says to listen to the experts and stay inside, but my heart is telling me to help. Although I have not held a bedside role in over 15 years, I volunteered to be a part of the initiative, if needed. I volunteer to drive people that still need to get out for physician’s appointments and dialysis, and I have delivered lunches to frontline heroes in hospitals and long-term care facilities. I just need to help in some way.

After COVID-19 arrived in the U.S,. many residents in a nursing home in Washington State fell ill. That immediately raised public health concerns for those living in long term care facilities across the US. I have always worked with at-risk populations, but none so effected as right now. Long term care communities represent the highest clusters of coronavirus cases in the United States.

My role as a Certified Senior Advisor is to find safer living options for older adults. I have seen firsthand how a reclusive and isolated 85-year-old mother with dementia within 2 months of moving into a community, has started to run a knitting club and has completely come out of her shell. I have helped a 76-year-old couple that were looking for maintenance-free living with an option for them to live in Florida for four months over the winter, to work on their golf game. And the widow with Parkinson’s disease who fell and was lying in his home for two days before anyone found him. These are a few examples of the people I have helped over the years and have gotten to know and care about. So, you can see how I am conflicted. On one hand communal living can be harmful but living alone in isolation can be worse. Every healthcare entity sorted out their safety protocols and put plans in place to mitigate and contain the virus’ spread. Now, as the pandemic continues two months on, those safety protocols are firmly in place in most senior communities around the country.

I have heard of a friend of a friend having COVID-19, but I consider myself incredibly lucky as my family and close friends have remained free of the infection. So as not to share my political ideals with the world, I will close by asking the Lord to watch over and help our elected officials make the best decisions to protect us all.

Be well and keep washing those hands!