By Kaelanne Jordan
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, older adults have been disproportionately affected. We have all heard the warnings from the health authorities that older adults, especially the elderly should socially distance from family members because of their heightened risk of infection from the virus. As a result, many grandparents found themselves separated from loved ones, including children and grandchildren.
While this lack of in-person contact for grandparents has been exceptionally difficult, it may have also caused anxiety and stress among children and grandchildren.
The Catholic News shares their stories with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day acknowledged today, Wednesday June 15th.
“In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. Until recently, this serious social problem was hidden from the public view and considered mostly a private matter. Even today, elder abuse continues to be a taboo, mostly underestimated and ignored by societies across the world.” – United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs|Ageing
At Mama’s house
For Renee Smith, “no-one expected the pandemic to last as long as it has, but when the virus began to spread rapidly locally, I, alongside other members of my immediate family began to limit visits to keep her safe.”
Her grandmother, Florence ‘Mama’ Taylor, 74, is mother of five and grandmother of nine. She has been married 51 years to Hulton Taylor, 81 years.
In describing her grandmother as one of her best friends, Smith underscored that grandparents are really the backbone of a lot of Caribbean homes and should be cherished.
Smith grew up with her grandparents while her parents lived abroad for some time. “And I have to give some credit to them for the person I am today. I thank them both for their sacrificial love, compassion, and generosity they continue to show, not just to me but to their children and other grandkids.”
She told Catholic News she considers her grandparents’ home as her second home and “you can often find me there at least twice a week. The pandemic and its limitations really put my grandmother’s age into perspective because she is very vibrant despite turning 75 this year and thoroughly enjoys going out and having a full house of chatter and laughs.”
As ‘Mama’ has no comorbidities, she usually insists she would be “fine” if people visit her and spend time.
“Despite her objections early in the pandemic, my family limited visits to keep both her and my grandfather safe. This included limiting physical contact such as hugs (which I miss!), kisses, and close contact conversations. Pre-pandemic, she was always a person to remind anyone visiting her to ‘make sure and wash your hands good’ when you came through her door, so that is something I continue to practise when visiting,” Smith said.
She explained that both grandparents are very independent and able-bodied, hence accessing groceries and other goods and services was not an issue.
“The family never has to worry about making sure she has a good meal nor assisting her physically to run her errands. Because she is loved, dropping by with fruit and other goodies has always been the norm,” Smith said. In terms of accessing pension, Smith shared that ‘Mama’ would usually go with one of her daughters or her husband. Both, she stressed, are fully vaccinated, and did not hesitate to get the vaccines once they were available.
Yet, despite being careful they both tested positive for the virus in November 2021. Smith shared, “It was difficult for her to be isolated for days as my grandfather was hospitalized for the virus for some time but my family collaborated to ensure they had their needs met including adequate food, financial aid, and general care.”
“Calling and using WhatsApp to check in” Smith said was definitely a grace for ‘Mama’ to keep connected with everyone.
Smith commented with the country returning to a sense of “normalcy”, the family has kept the same routine they employed early in the pandemic. Mask wearing, she said, is not mandatory in her household but some family members tend to wear their masks if there is a large gathering in the home. Additionally, if persons are feeling ill, they stay away from Mama’s home.
Grandmother and Catholic News’ vendor
Kissoon, a Catholic News vendor, lives with Dominic and his 9-year-old son. She said in the early part of the pandemic, her son would return home from work, enter through the back door, remove his clothes and “go straight to the shower before having any sort of communication with myself or his son.”
She told Catholic News she was not fearful of being exposed to the virus because “we all decided to do what we have to do. We did the talk, ‘yes, we have to be careful….’.”
Kissoon shared that she would venture outdoors once a month to do grocery shopping. She would usually be accompanied by someone. On her return home, she would shower, sanitise grocery bags, bring them in one at a time, and unpack. “That was a task in itself”, she recalled.
She mentioned that guests and customers were not allowed inside her home. “People would come by the gate, I would put on my mask, give it to them [Catholic News], sanitise and that was it,” she said.
With regard to accessing pension, Kissoon said she had no reason to visit the bank, as her pension is accessed through the bank’s automated teller machine. She also paid bills online. “Anything extra that I wanted, my son would get it for me”, Kissoon said.
She added “I’m still not going anywhere I don’t have to go. I go to church, church meetings that I have to, some are online …but taking the transportation and travel, no I’m not doing that,” she said.
Chapter 36 of The Rule of St Benedict on ‘The Care of the Sick’, reads: “Care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ, for he said: ‘I was sick and you visited me’ (Matthew 25:36), and ‘What you did for one of these least brothers you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40).”
This is the motivating factor at the Abbey Church of Mt St Benedict in the attention that is paid to all the brethren in and out of the pandemic.
“No stone is left unturned at the Mount in the care and attention that is rendered to the monks, and especially at this time of the Covid-19 threat to the health and well-being of each monk”, said Abbot John Pereia OSB.
He told Catholic News since the onset of the pandemic, the Abbey embarked upon a fumigation routine for the church, the public facilities, and the monastery where the monks reside. This fumigation routine continues to present.
Sanitising and hand-washing facilities in and around the monastery were upgraded according to the Ministry of Health requirements, Abbot Pereira explained.
All the monks and employees are fully vaccinated.
“The senior monks who reside in our in-house infirmary benefit from a round-the-clock (24/7) nursing staff, who are diligent and efficient. A medical doctor pays frequent visits to the Abbey to ensure that the health of the monks is in order”, he said. The monks range in ages from 32 to 97 years.