A Note from TinaMay 6, 2020
A note from Tina McIntosh, Founder & President of Joy’s House. Published May 6, 2020.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never needed a good long hug more than I do now. When I close my eyes and think about Joy’s House, I see these hugs. The smiles on the Guests’ faces are so vivid, I feel like I can touch them. And I picture walking into the Garden Room where Guests (clients) are sitting with their friends – laughing, engaging and living their lives in community.
But the reality of us reopening won’t look the same. We are preparing to open on June 1 and as we talk about temporary new guidelines, the room looks different. We’re not quite sure how it looks different yet, but it will definitely be different for a while. At Joy’s House, our Guests represent those most vulnerable to this coronavirus, and so many other diseases, and our number one priority is always their safety. We’ll figure it out. I know we will. We’re Joy’s House.
This time of quarantine has been difficult for our families. For the first few weeks our families, like everyone else, were figuring out the new temporary normal. But after a few weeks, things shifted. We started to hear desperation as we talked with them – new routines were taking their toll on everyone.
- Guests were progressing with their illnesses. Guests who never experienced falls were suddenly falling again and again. Guests who left us in mid-March recognizing their spouses were rapidly losing their most precious memories and relationships. And several died – the virus and natural causes took their toll. (It feels important to note that although COVID-19 has touched several of our families, we successfully closed our doors in March without exposure to our families and staff.) We coach on home modifications and support devices. We listen as wives cry, sharing the pain and fear that comes when their spouse doesn’t know who they are. And we mourn, in a strange virtual way with the families whose loved ones have died.
I’m not telling you this to make you sad, although I admittedly am typing with tears streaming down my face. I’m sharing this because if there was ever a moment of doubt about the importance of places like Joy’s House, that doubt has been erased. We serve the most vulnerable people in our community. They need us.
- Family caregivers need more from us. It’s that simple. As a community, we aren’t prepared to be a caregiver on a good day, much less a day that requires us to lock ourselves inside of our homes and to care for our loved one 24/7 until, well, until the world opens back up.
Last fall, we began pulling together a key group of organizations who work with family caregivers. We took inventory of the work being done in the State of Indiana for family caregivers. As a whole, we fell short. Together, we decided to take steps to create solutions for family caregivers. You will see bits and pieces of these steps if you look now (The Hau’oli Project mentioned below is one – and we need volunteers) from Joy’s House and other related-healthcare organizations, but in the not-so-distant future, you are going to see bigger collaborations and programs. Indiana is ranked as one of the worst states in our nation when it comes to family caregiver services. This group is going to be a part of moving our state up that list. Our caregivers deserve better.
- The connection between our Guests and my co-workers is undeniable. When we say we become like family, we mean it. You can see it when everyone’s faces light up in a Zoom Bingo gathering or an afternoon virtual sing-a-long. You can see it when we wave at each other during a drive-by parade with balloons flying out of windows and signs that read, “We miss you!”
- Our Board of Directors and special committee volunteers have stepped up in big ways during this time. They are leading us with sustainability conversations, making personal calls to check in with staff, donating for the good of family caregivers and walking alongside us to make sure that we are best prepared for any and all business decisions. We are grateful for each and every one of them.
- New memories have been made and old ones rediscovered. On a recent Zoom call with our Guests, I got to meet great grandchildren, as they crawled on and around the laps of our Guests. It’s been beautiful to see homes and families from new perspectives and to see them incorporate at-home activities through Joy’s House guidance. And then there are the moments that you just can’t plan for – one of our family caregivers sent me a text the other day sharing that she was cleaning out her garage thanks to this down time and she came across a tightly tied bag. She said that she remembered in detail the day that her husband, who passed late last year, had brought it home after leaving Joy’s House one day. He was convinced that it was a bag of food for the squirrel who would often visit their backyard. It was packed with mulch. She laughed as she held that bag and I could feel her smile through her words.
It’s the little things, my friends. It’s the little things that mean so much. And I think we are learning through this strange time, just how much that is true. As we prepare to reopen our adult day services, we will stay focused on caring for these families who need us for adult day and caregiver services today and all of the tomorrows to come. To do this, we also need you – whether it be a donation, signing up to be a Volunteer Advocate or nominating a Caregiver through The Hau’oli Project or sending a letter to your local Representative, we’re grateful that you’re a part of Joy’s House. Be well and I can’t wait for that hug ~ Tina