Trying to Explain the Unexplainable: Answering the Grandkids’ “Whys” during the Coronavirus Crisis

by Linda Chamberlain

All of us remember the “why” stage of a child’s life. Today was a wonderful, multi-generational visit with everyone staring at Great Bagda (means Grandma for us) through the window of her assisted living facility and talking into a speaker so she hopefully can hear us and feel a connection.

The grandkids naturally had a lot of “whys” for us. So, we tried to explain all the things our adult minds can’t wrap our heads around during this coronavirus crisis:

Why can’t Great Bagda come outside?

Well, Great Bagda’s assisted living facility does not allow their residents to come outside because of the germs. Great Bagda has only been outside one time since March. They have so many people living here they each have to take turns.

Do we have the germs?

No, we are all healthy and do not have the germ.

Then why can’t she come out since we do not have the germ?

Unfortunately, those are the rules.

If I wear a mask can I give Great Bagda a big hug?

No big hugs for Great Bagda. She has not had a big hug since March 15th, over 4 months ago.

Does anyone hug Great Bagda goodnight?

No, Great Bagda has to go to bed every night without seeing anyone and without any hugs.

Why can’t we go inside and see Great Bagda?

Governor DeSantis in Florida has said we cannot go inside to see Great Bagda. The Governor says this is the only way to keep Great Bagda safe from the germ.

Why can’t we stay over here and Great Bagda come outside and stay way over there and then we see her better?

Unfortunately, the facility rules say she is not allowed to come outside with us.

Why can I be outside?

You get to play outside, go swimming, ride your bike, go fishing, have a picnic, and all kinds of fun things because you are staying with your family and everyone is staying safe and wearing their masks.

Then why can’t Great Bagda see us if we are staying safe, wearing our masks and do not have the germ?

The government is trying to protect Great Bagda by keeping her inside and alone, so she does not get the germ. Even if we can prove we do not have the germ we are not allowed in to see her.

Why is that nurse allowed to go inside Great Bagda’s apartment building?

The nurse is helping to take care of Great Bagda and she takes a test to make sure she doesn’t have the germ.

Can we take a test and then go in and see Great Bagda?

No. Even though we do not have the germ we are not allowed in to see Great Bagda.

They why can the nurse go in and we cannot go in?

Those are the rules.

Can we go see Great Bagda in her apartment?

No, we are not allowed inside. We do not know how long it will be until we can see her. Maybe when the germs go away?

When will the germ go away?

Maybe before Christmas if we are lucky. Someone is making a shot you can take that keeps you safe from the germ.

Where does Great Bagda eat her lunch?

Great Bagda eats all her meals–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–in her apartment by herself. All her meals are served on disposable plates. Great Bagda loves hamburger Happy Meals and we bring her those to eat. We drop it off at the facility out front and someone comes and sprays it with something then they deliver it to her.

Why do they spray her Happy Meal?

I ask that question myself and they said the big boss says they must spray down everything before it comes inside.

Does Great Bagda have any friends?

Yes, she has friends that call her on the telephone.

Is Great Bagda allowed to play with her friends?

No, Great Bagda is not allowed to leave her room unless no one else is in the hallway. If no one is in the hallway she can walk down the hall and back to her room.

Can Great Bagda come to our house?

Yes, Great Bagda could come to our house but once she leaves her apartment to come visit us she is not allowed to return, even if the test shows she does not have the germ.

Do you think Great Bagda misses us?

Yes, she misses you very much, that is why she is crying while we look at her. She is so happy to see you but so sad she cannot hug you. Great Bagda says the pain of seeing us through a window and not being able to hug us is almost more than she can bear.

It is Time for a CHANGE!

The legacy we are leaving our grandchildren is a scary one. I hate to think their last memories of Great Bagda will be seeing her literally locked in a facility waving at them through the window. While I understood the initial quarantine requirements in March, since then we have learned so much about COVID-19. Testing has become readily available and if family members test negative, they should be allowed to schedule a safe visit with their loved one. Setting aside a safe room, with scheduled visits, safety precautions, and negative testing should provide us the opportunity to be with our loved one. This is a realistic option. Please visit the Facebook group, Caregivers for Compromise – because isolation kills too! This is not a small problem; it is a big one that we need to solve sooner rather than later.

This writer struggles every day with deciding whether to bring Great Bagda to live with us. Great Bagda requires a significant amount of personal care and full help with all her activities of daily living. We know if we bring her to live with us it would drastically affect every aspect of our lives. Primarily mine, since I would need to be the primary caregiver. I will be frank; I am not sure I can do it day in and day out. I love her so much but the weight of the responsibility along with the physical toll on my own body scares me. But the thought of being in her situation, limited to staying only in the apartment with staff coming in to check on me from time to time, no other human interaction, and no hope of when it is going to change and be over scares me too.

Thinking about whether or not to move a loved one home from their assisted living or nursing facility? Download our free checklist about how to evaluate the feasibility, determine what’s needed, and prepare.

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