TOPSHOT - A member of the medical staff helps patient infected by the novel coronavirus to call relatives on videoconference, at the COVID-19 division at the ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, on April 3, 2020. - Italy's three-week lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 has been extended through at least mid-April and its economy is expected to suffer its biggest peacetime shock since World War II. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP) (Photo by PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images)

Sue Meyer: The (Mis)Communication Roller Coaster

Author: Sue Meyer (c) 

Sue Meyer is an advisor on Serious Games Projects. She has an MEd in Counselling Psychology (McGill, 1992). She has more than 3 decades of experience working with troubled youth affected by addiction and dysfunctional families.

I have never liked roller coasters, not even when I was a kid going to Belmont Park and, later, La Ronde.  They were too high up, too fast, too unstable, and too frightening.  And that feeling has not changed. 

Now I find myself on an unwanted roller coaster ride with no chance of disembarking anytime soon.   Call it the Covid-19 Rocket.

Ever since we realized the enormity of this virus, I have felt like my fears and emotions have been in a state of flux and are just waiting for that inevitable CRASH!

At first, in our naivety, we thought we would be out of our confinement after a short period.  But as time went on, we began to realize that this was not to be the case. 

As days passed, we went into a full-fledged lock down. The number of cases has multiplied, and deaths are increasing daily.  But at least some good news is being released daily, the numbers of those who have recovered. These are what we hang onto to keep our sanity.

But I like to share a few words with our politicians:

As we begin our third month of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, the government has decided to get the economy going again, claiming that we have things under control - except for the “senior situation”. 

In fact, the senior situation is far from being under control, especially in Montreal and the East- and North-ends that are seriously out of control.

Let us never forget that the rate of seniors from the age 60 – 90+ dying from Covid-19 reached 97.5% in April 30th.

Most of these deaths were seniors in CHSLDs, R.I.s and Senior homes. The reason why the army came rescue is because many of the care-giving personnel were too afraid to come to work.    Many seniors were sent to the hospital for care, but as the army’s damning report is showing now, those who remained were malnourished and uncared for.

At the time that I wrote this (Early May 2020),  5 frontline workers had died from Covid-19 in Quebec.  The Premier had called in the army, has begged those who were no longer sick to come back to work, had asked specialists to fill in for care-giving.  At the time, homes ran out of protective equipment and the staff were told to reuse masks and gloves, and for the infected workers to keep working anyway. None of the army report is new or surprising to us.

Someone very close to me works as a social worker for a CLSC in the Laurentians.  Her regular job is to oversee a number of senior residences, private and public.  At the time of writing this, she was exclusively assigned to one of her residences with growing number of Covid-19 cases. PABs were no longer coming, other staff were either sick or afraid to come in and had to be replaced, the manager had also come down with Covid-19. She was working 60 – 70 hours a week, despite the fact that her regular job contract was 3 day/week, leaving her to work in another job for the other 2 days--which she did from home.  She was exhausted, emotionally drained, and was going for couple of days without seeing her children. Colleagues with whom she was working had been diagnosed with Covid-19 and she was nervous about her turn. 

Naj says that there has been a lot of talk about technology as a saviour of this situation. But how can that be true when we cannot even secure enough personal protective devices. There are only communal communication devices (tablet) in some of the residences. To operate these devices, caregivers have had to work closely with both healthy and sick seniors, helping them with technology so they can be in contact with their families, some for the last time.

This has proven to become an additional stressful and emotional job to do for the care personnel.  On top of all daily chores, support staff have to call families to give them updates on their seniors or to answer family’s questions when she does not have answers to them. 

Communication is good but being the message bearer is not an enviable job, especially when you are not allowed to show and tell the whole story (on a zoom call, for example).

To not be able to tell the story fully has been a major problem in fact.

Last night my friend informed me that she was exposed to the virus by a careless colleague who had not taken precautions in dealing with a COVID-positive senior. After informing her superior, she was told that she didn’t really need to be tested, that the negligent social worker would be returning to work too. This makes it easier to understand why some PABs were no longer coming to work.  

No, technology cannot have solved any of these problems. When my friend had started working at this residence, she told me that even after working in emergency and TBI (traumatic brain injury), this was the most chaotic situation in which she had ever worked.  

Now, the Quebec Premier has jump started the economy, but how can we expose the society to more possible Covid-19 cases when we are still struggling with providing care in senior homes?  

And technology cannot solve the problem of breakdown in communication which leaves us not knowing what or who to believe:  from “We are opening the schools on May 18” to  “there are too many cases of Covid-19, change the opening until May 25”   or  “Anyone over 60 does not and should not come to work”  next day “ It is safe for teachers up to the age of 70 to come to work”  How about “there are no problems except in the senior homes” then  “The death rate and case rate are climbing in more than the senior homes” 

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