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Milestones during the Pandemic

Jenny Dsouza                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Gerontologya alumna,                                                                                                                                                                                                                University of Nebraska at Omaha

October 11, 2020

Many people say that the year 2020 has felt like the month of March on repeat. Due to the ‘pause’ our world has taken to combat Covid-19, many cherished annual events have been canceled or postponed: the College World Series, Husker Football, vacations, and the list goes on. For older adults, especially those living in communities, the experience is even more intense. This high-risk older population has watched their communities gradually keep out anyone except essential workers. The result has been the loss of meaningful moments such as meeting new grandbabies and attending holiday and family gatherings. The assisted living and skilled nursing/rehab community, Brighton Gardens of Omaha, where I worked at as an activity assistant, was not spared by the drastic operational changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An endless March and lack of milestones has been far from my experience. During my final semester to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Gerontology, I saw all classes go online and a once-vibrant campus become practically deserted. Amidst the ‘shutting down’ of Omaha I still graduated, albeit virtually without the ‘graduation walk’, and took graduation photos (using my husband’s Masters cap and gown- shh!) by the landmarks at the then-empty UNO campus.

Another life-changing milestone during the pandemic was journeying through my first pregnancy and the birth of my daughter, Agnes. While the pandemic offered disappointment, fear, and hopelessness to the older adults I served, the little girl growing within me brought hope, opportunities of joyful reminiscence, surprise (for those with dementia) and anticipation. For example, I brought a sample of Agnes’ wardrobe to put on a ‘baby fashion show’ for each resident when they were limited to staying in their rooms. Simply by her presence and the promise of her arrival in August, my unborn daughter was bringing light to those around her and the chance for older adults to share in the milestone that was unfolding before me.

As I was primarily staying at home aside from the times that I worked, I am grateful that I had a community to encourage me and gleefully watch my belly grow. While it was not the community I expected- older adults and coworkers instead of my church community and college friends- to be immersed in during my last months of pregnancy, it will be an experience I hope I will never forget.

Since I was unable to introduce Agnes to my dear ‘residents’ in person, my husband created a birth announcement that we gave to the staff to hand out so each resident could share in the news of her birth. I was recently informed that, two months later, many of the residents still have their birth announcements proudly displayed in their rooms.

I look forward to telling Agnes one day about the joyful milestone her coming and arrival was for so many people during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.