By now, you have heard it many times, from the governor to the news media to local and state public health officials: COVID-19 cases in Colorado are on a dramatic rise. 

It is up to everyone to help get this pandemic under control before the vaccine is available in order for it to be most effective. We need to wear masks. Stay socially distanced. Don’t have large family gatherings during the holidays. 

This is everyone’s responsibility, and we all must do our part. The adage applies: If you are not part of the solution, you are the problem!

Steven Summer

The fatigue from hearing this message is real. We feel it, too. Who are we? We are you; those that are trying to live their life while avoiding this terrible virus that is ravaging our state, the nation, and the world.

But there is another community whose voice needs to be heard. And that is the voice of our seniors, especially those who are older and live in communal settings. And we must also be mindful of the compassionate and caring professional staff in the nursing homes, assisted living facilities and memory care units who ensure that everyone can age with as much independence, support and dignity as possible. 

Those that live in these facilities are your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and friends — people who are very important to you and the reason the staff come to work every day.

There is an important message to convey to everyone. Something is happening in our senior living communities that you should know about. 

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At Kavod Senior Life, we are dealing with having an active coronavirus outbreak. It is very stressful on our residents — and staff. The city started doing twice-weekly tests two week ago and will continue to do so this week. Recently, they switched from nasal to mouth testing and this is required for every one of our 400 residents and 100 staff. As a result of the outbreak, some residents were required to quarantine in their apartments.

Our residents are starting to pale, get anxious and concerned – but not from COVID. Rather, they are struggling from the mental strain of prolonged and extreme isolation. We are observing more signs of sadness, depression, and extreme stress. Our kindest residents are yelling at caregivers. Our friendliest individuals are subdued.

So, you ask, what can you do?

Facilities like Kavod have mandated restrictions from state and local public health officials. Non-essential visitors are not permitted. Residents must eat alone in their apartments. All in-person activities and trips are canceled. 

No one is arguing that the precautions are not being done for good reason and for the safety of the residents and staff.  But after so many months, the loneliness and isolation begin to wear everyone down and impacts both physical and mental health.

Our seniors need your help. These restrictions cannot be lifted until COVID-19 is less of a community threat. For this to happen, everyone needs to follow sound and evidenced-based public health guidance — avoid congregating, wear masks and embrace social distancing. 

It takes everyone to do whatever is necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Like any other situation where we get weary of hearing the same message over and over, it is important to find a way to overcome it.  

Whatever you need to do to embrace the necessary precautions – on behalf of those most at risk — you need to do it. And do it now!  There is no time to spare.

I am certain we agree that our seniors deserve better than to endure forced isolation. These are the individuals that have fought wars, built our bridges, and laid the foundation for us to enjoy the lives we have and prosper. 

At Kavod Senior Life, our residents include veterans, doctors, pioneers, and immigrants from many different countries. And they are all suffering equally from the restrictions imposed upon them by COVID.

So, it is for their sake that I urge you to help us thwart the decline in their mental and physical health by helping to stop the spread of the virus. It is time to take very seriously the imperative of getting this virus under control. 

Making wise decisions is the key to lifting restrictions and providing our older community members with the ability to live happily, stay mentally and physically well, and thrive.

Steven Summer is the chairman of the Board of Directors of Kavod Senior Life of Denver.

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