December 24, 2020
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Some reports say that 75% of the deaths from COVID-19 occurred in long-term residences for seniors. I don’t find that hard to believe. Here is Saskatchewan there have been 130 deaths so far this year, 25% of those deaths occurred during one recent outbreak in one residence. I believe everyone did the best they could with the situation as they understood it, but resources and personnel have been overwhelmed by the spread of an invisible attacker.
At the beginning of the pandemic there was a fear that hospitals would be overwhelmed. In some cases hospitals were able to make more beds available by transferring elderly people to long term care homes. In retrospect, that does not seem to have been a good idea. Here are some of the problems that have been identified.
- Many of the larger homes had multi-patient rooms, up to four beds in one room. When one person in that room became ill there were no private rooms available to isolate them. You could draw a curtain around the bed with the sick person, but the virus spread by airborne particles over, under and around that curtain.
- Most homes had a large contingent of part-time workers. In larger urban centres that often meant that many of those workers were employed at more than one home. When the virus arrived in one home those workers carried it to the other home where they worked before they realized they had been infected.
- Elderly people often do not present the same symptoms of COVID-19 as younger people, leading to delays in diagnosis.
- Long-term care homes were closed to visitors. Workers who were unknown to the patients were brought in to replace those who were sick. Cutting off the elderly from family, faith communities and familiar caregivers caused loneliness, confusion, and fear. Those emotions have physical consequences.
With all good intentions, we have largely botched the care of the most vulnerable among us. It will serve no good purpose to find people to blame this on, but perhaps some lessons can be learned for the future. One lesson may be that bigger is not always better. Perhaps the ultimate lesson is that we are all to blame because we thought it was a good idea to separate the elderly into large institutions where their physical needs could be provided, which has resulted in isolating ourselves from them.
April 14, 2020
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A newspaper in a small Saskatchewan city recently reported on a shocking rise in drive-by shoutings. That trend has now come to our tiny hamlet of Swanson.
In this hamlet there is a seniors’ residence; yesterday two of the residents had a birthday. Melvin was 86 and Wilbert was 91. With no visitors allowed, a birthday party was out of the question.
The families hatched a scheme. Since my wife was cooking supper they enlisted me in the conspiracy. At 7:30 I urged those two residents to come to the lounge area. A siren began wailing just as the birthday boys got to the large west-facing window. The fire truck of the local volunteer department hove into view. Two firemen got out and carried a ladder onto the driveway opposite the window and placed it on its side across the driveway from the window. When they walked away, we saw a poster fastened to the ladder saying: “Happy Birthday Wilbert and Melvin!”
Then came at least two dozen pickups, vans and SUV’s, many with birthday greetings fastened on the doors, all of them with people leaning out the open windows and shouting Happy Birthday. An honest to goodness drive-by shouting.
A surprise ending to a drab birthday. Both men were delighted with the event.
March 24, 2020
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Firenze (Florence) Italy. Image by Daniel Wanke from Pixabay
A careful observer who escaped the plague at Florence in 1617 describes the barricaded houses and empty streets, forbidden to all but food suppliers. Florence was dead: no business activities and no religious services — except for the odd mass which the officiant celebrated at the corner of a street and in which the people participated from behind closed windows.
-Fernand Braudel, Structures of Everyday Life © 1979 Librairie Armand Colin, Paris for the original French edition. English version © 1981 Harper & Row
September 25, 2019
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1. They isolate members from other people
Relationships with family and friends outside the community that do not further the goals of the community become suspect.
2. They disconnect members from the reality of the world around them
People who don’t have to choose and pay for their own food, clothing and shelter can hardly relate to the people around them who do.
3. Giving is mandatory, not voluntary
When someone joins a commune, he voluntarily gives all he has to the community. After that he is assigned tasks to do for the well-being of the community.
4. Conversion becomes merely assent to the values of the community
When one’s home and livelihood are tied to being a member, young people who grow up in the community face enormous pressure to make an outward commitment to the faith of the community. Those who are already members also face pressure to admit young people on such a basis, for the continuation of the community.
5. Allegiance to the community outranks a relationship with God
Since the community is believed to be the ultimate expression of the will of God, a personal relationship with God and being led of the Holy Spirit are taught to be synonymous with living in accordance with the values of the community.
Sharing of material blessings received from God, mutual aid, bearing one another’s burdens, helping the poor and the weak are all values clearly taught in the New Testament. But they are taught as voluntary actions proceeding from a heart that is transformed by the Spirit of God.
2 Corinthians 9:7 – Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
November 30, 2017
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I once had a poster with a picture of a sailing ship at rest in a calm harbour. The caption read: A ship in a harbour is safe — but that’s not what ships are made for.
There have always been Christians who thought that the safest way to live a pure Christian life was to find a safe harbour where they could rest in serene isolation from the storms of the surrounding world. But that’s not what Christians are made for.
Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth, Acts 1:8.
Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, Mark 16:15.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear, 1 Peter 3:15.
As I read the Scriptures, I am convinced that isolation is not a safe harbour for Christians. Our safety is in being obedient to our Lord and keeping our hearts and minds pure. But we have the unfortunate tendency to deceive ourselves about our inward purity if our faith is not tested daily in our relations with others. It is too easy for us to become smug and self-righteous.
We are made for something much more important than resting in a safe harbour. The important thing is to be sure that our Lord is the master of our ship as we venture out into the seas of life.