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  • Writer's pictureJodie Finney

CHANGE - A peek behind our families ability to make a change.

What does that word even mean? To paraphrase Merriam-Webster's definitions of the word change: "1a: to make different in some particular way, b: to make radically different, c: to make a shift from one to another."

To put a list together of all things "changed" in 2020 would take longer than you are willing to give me. No matter how many Instagram posts you see about the good that has come from this pandemic…and there has been some good but there has also been bad change that is extraordinarily valuable and noteworthy. It is hard to wrap your head around all the changes.

You could be a change lover, never sitting still, redecorating your house more often than most humans, always on a project, and never able to live "as is" for a while. I wouldn't know anything about that, wink, wink. Like all things in life, there is the other end of the spectrum. Those people that find a change in any form unfathomable. Whose couch fabric has been the same since 1962, Thanksgiving morning is celebrated with a cold glass of eggnog, regardless of your dietary preferences, or wearing their game day outfit because it's “game day.” Wherever your personality lands of the bell curve, 2020 has surpassed most humans' comfort level for change.

One can look at this bell curve of change in two primary forms. There is change on a personal level and a public level. Personally, 2020 has asked us to change. We have been asked to alter our daily habits, reevaluate our viewpoints, level of acceptance, and respect for others' beliefs. It is easy to blame or point the finger at others and say, you need to change, not me. And if the division in this country says one thing for sure, we ALL need to change. Not one person gets a free pass. No one here is perfect. It is humbling to accept that, but the bravest personal step forward is the willingness to change.

On the second type of bell curve, you have change on a public scale. This broad scope scale interweaves itself with the personal scale. This public bell curve of change represents things like the willingness to change business patterns, financial habits, social interactions, education practices, technologies use, etc. Both of these curves are worth mentioning because one cannot happen without the other.

Where do we go from here? How do we navigate this marsh of sludge on all sides? Personally I, well, really my family had to make a change regarding our mother's care. It was something back in March we would never have predicted, but situations slowly began to rise to the surface, and we needed to make a change.

How do you recognize a change is needed? Are you overreacting? Underacting? Are you regretting not having done this change sooner?

To quickly catch you up to speed, my mom has Alzheimer's and after much deliberation, we decided to move her into a memory care facility. I have a few posts all about it here and here. Then the pandemic hit and hit big. We navigated summer in a semi-normalish fashion. My family was unable to visit mom in person. We were subject to Facetime visits and the new creation of window visits. I fully comprehend this population as a high-risk group, really the highest risk group in the country. I also understand that if there is a positive case in an elderly facility it will spread like wildfire. Our family very much understood and worked with the facility during these early months of the pandemic.

However, things evolved. Science advanced, testing advanced, knowledge of the disease advanced. Thus, giving rise to the "changers" and the "non-changers." We see it everywhere in our communities. Some schools thought outside the box and reimage education; small businesses were willing to change their revenue model; there was evidence of active change happening everywhere. Elderly facilities were changing all over the country; these companies were rethinking how to keep their residents safe, employees safe, and still have families stay united. The public bell curve was shifting and the people in leadership roles were also changing their personal position on the bell curves to make progress both personally and publicly.

A side note that is worth mentioning at this point is no change is without risk. And you need to understand that, evaluate it, and be willing to accept the failures that can come because of change. As a global pandemic hits your nation, you can begin to see who is willing to weigh the risks vs. the benefits of a change and react accordingly. Those that aren't, are left in the dust saying, "I wish I would've, could've, should've,” or worse, blaming someone else for their short sidedness.

A second side note that everyone needs to understand about memory care patients is they do not know we are in a pandemic. They don't wear masks because they have no idea why they would ever need that. They don't understand social distance because a global pandemic makes no sense. Even if you tell them they don't remember. Additionally, their disease affects their brain in such a way that they react on an emotional level as a child would. They will be happy if you are happy, they will feel loved when you are physically close to them, and they can feed off the joy in a room. Because mentally, they don't have the higher executive functioning they once did. Thus, an in-person visit means even more to them than to other mentally sound people their same age.

Back to us, our family had a first-hand experience of this inability to change when it came to our mother's memory care facility. It's a long story, much longer than you all care to read at this given moment. But it boiled down to the facility's lack of forethought, inability to think outside the box, and reimage how family visits looked.

Their staff came and went, leading everyday lives outside of work and then walking back in to hold my mom's hand, dress her, and sit next to her as she did her puzzles with nothing more than a temp check and a questionnaire. Meanwhile, family members were willing to take rapid tests, quarantine, wear full PPE, and stand on their head to have even 15 mins across a table with their loved ones. Yet, there was no willingness to change. To recognize that an employees' level of COVID exposure and family members' level of exposure is similar. In fact, family members would take their potential exposure risks much more seriously because they would not want to harm their loved ones. In the end, we had had enough.

I started to make calls to other facilities in the area only to realize that companies within my community weigh the risk, thinking outside the box, all while keeping their staff and residents safe. We had meetings with mom's original facility. I wrote emails to government officials. After family discussions and looking at the current state of the pandemic and winter months ahead, we decided to move her. We made a change.

It was a thoughtful, well-analyzed group decision, but we made it. I believe it will be one of the best pandemic decision we make. Hard, but worth it. The new facility has tightened its restrictions with the increase in COVID cases; however, they continue to reevaluate. They prioritize the safety of their staff and resident without devaluing the importance of family.

I think one significant aspect of being able to make a change is just that "being able." Many times, we think we are too old to change, don't have the experience to change, or we are too nervous about making the switch. We are uncomfortable being out of our comfort zone. Other times we are too untrustworthy of others, we can't critically think of the situation we are faced with, or we can't think outside of the box for different avenues. Still, we don't make a list of priorities and then stick to it, regardless of what others think. There are so many "what ifs," so many should've, could've, would've. What sets the changers apart from the non-changers? It's their ability to "be able."

An able person can evaluate risk properly. They are able to think critically without getting one's feelings hurt. To be able to believe you can do amazing things. If an able person can think into the future without wishing for things to be like they used to be, there can be growth. If an able person can take their list of priorities and not shuffle the order to comply with other perceptions, they will forge ahead with a clear path. Able people are capable of evaluating other viewpoints as exciting and valuable to the whole.

Being able to sit with our mother during the final months of her working memory was our guiding light. We, as a family, needed our personal interaction with her. We used research to help guide our decision to move mom. We had family discussions, tried working with the original facility, and expressed concerns to government officials. But we were also willing to take a risk that mom could decline further with a transfer and that she may not get along with the other residents and staff. There were doctor changes and moving logistics to handle. In the end, it was a change and we made it.

As a 42-year-old female, I have to look at this situation as a learning moment. I have to understand that as I go down this journey of life, I need to remember to be able. Whether I am 80 and need to give up driving or I am 65 and realize the house I loved for so many years is too much. Or maybe the next time a global pandemic sweeps the earth, I will be able to adapt, change, and grow with whatever is needed of me at the time. Can I not be stuck in my bell curve positions as not to change? Can I work towards the ability to be able? Can I teach my children to be able, to evaluate risk, and believe in their abilities - their ableness? Can I support my husband, family, and loved ones when they are choosing to be able? Can I respect and relish in others' ableness even if they don't line up with my views? May I always remember that being able doesn't mean being perfect; it means being human.

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