March 15 2020
Written By
Barbara Karnes
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We've Just Begun Social Distancing~ Here Are My Thoughts

We've Just Begun Social Distancing~ Here Are My Thoughts


Meredith - April 22 2020

Was just commenting to a fellow hospice-worker yesterday “I wonder what Barbara Karnes would have to say about COVID-19…” This came after a recent re-watching of your New Rules for End of Life Care video, and a discussion about your singular talent for explaining difficult concepts in ways that all can understand, and feel comforted and at peace by your explanations.

With the uncertainty and fear due to COVID-19, we all could use a moment of peace, a moment of perspective. I’m going to read my way through the rest of your recent blogposts, and resubscribe, but I wanted to pause and thank you. for providing me with that moment of peace that I needed.

barbara - March 18 2020

Hi Cathy, you address a situation I have been thinking about for several days. How do we protect our healthcare workers AND how do we protect patients and family from the healthcare worker. The HC worker is out and about, exposed, the patient and families are isolated. You added another component with the healthcare worker returning home to an elder and/or exposing their significant others. I, like everyone else, don’t have answers. Seems like a lot of us see the problems but not solutions. I think the biggest problem right now is not everyone is on the “same page”. Some of us see the dangers, others ignore or are oblivious to the dangers, or maybe just don’t care. I wish I had concrete guidance for you, a do this and you will be fine kind of guidance—but I don’t. I remember saying to my first patient with AIDS in the ‘80s, “I’ve never taken care of someone with AIDS before. We don’t know very much about this disease right now but if I make mistakes it will be on the side of being overly cautious”. I think that guidance holds true today. My blessings are with you, your family and mom.

Cathy Bacinelli - March 18 2020

Thank you Barbara for your kind words and understanding. Though we (I recently moved in with my mom to help her) are not quarantined yet, I do worry about what I may bring home (mom is 87). I am a hospice Social Worker and my job requires me to travel to patient homes, wherever that may be. Right now, I am not allowed in any SNF’s but so far, home patients/families are still allowing visits. So far, none of our patients have been affected by Covid-19, but realistically, how long can that last? I pray for everyones safety and this to be over quickly. Be well all.

Barbara - March 17 2020

Hi Michael, good to hear from you. It has been awhile. Of course you can share this, and any of my blogs, with your team and families. That is why I write them. Blessings to you and your team in the work you all are doing. Stay safe. We need you. Barbara

Barbara - March 17 2020

Hi Jackie, just wanted to touch you and can only do it with words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Life is hard work and this particular part of life is showing us another example of how hard it can be. I did see “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” and I want to be like Mr. Rodgers when I grow up. Enjoy the painting. I got out my coloring books, not just a time filler, but a concentration tool for getting my mind off everything else. Blessings! Barbara.

Shauna Burrow - March 17 2020

Barbara, thank you for your thoughtful sharing.
You are right I have been 5 days in social distancing. So today I put out a Zoom call to some folks, for tea time. It was great to see and talk to them and we are going to invite others to participate.
I felt much better this afternoon.

Sandee - March 26 2020

Once again, i sit, read, and am in awe of your selflessness !
I dont want to lean into a conversation about GOD here. But im sure your an angel in a human suit…theres just such a peace ive recieved sooo many time from your writings…its just got (in my life) JESUS all over it.
Thank you!
Blessing to you and yours in this time of beautiful reflection for all!
I hope others will follow in this path!

Jackie - March 17 2020

I forgot to add, we just watched “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” tonight, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. I’m Canadian, so our TV version was called the “Friendly Giant” instead… I had rarely seen Mr. Rogers before this movie: but perhaps his kindness and gentleness what we’re missing in our “modern” North American society these days? Please watch this lovely movie if you can! and thanks again for your booklets Barbara, I got the basic pack of 4 and will cling to them “next time around” I’m sure…

Jackie - March 17 2020

Hello Barbara, Thanks for voicing some of the thoughts I have been feeling today! which is Day 3 or 4 of social distancing for us… see, I’ve forgotten already! I should’ve made a mark on the wall, like someone lost in a cave :) I’m 66 and my hubby is soon 75 years old. I went to the hardware store today in our little town, and the few people I saw all danced warily around each other, while most were still trying to appear friendly… yes, I have also phoned and texted friends more than usual lately! as you described. And yes, I have hardly showered or put on makeup, even for my little shopping trip when I knew I’d be seeing others… I feel shallow! and also a bit sorry for my husband, who being older and in worse health than me, is more concerned about the virus. (No coincidence that he constantly watches news updates – I hate them!) I lost my first husband to cancer, then his mom, his younger brother, and his dad, all within 1.5 years; so I’m familiar with the dying process…. how different it was though because my husband used alternative treatments and was relatively healthy til the very end of his 3.5 year battle….I say that, true to his personality, he just ran non-stop til he hit a wall and crashed…. However, I was pretty disappointed in the (supposed) palliative care in his hometown, to which we had just moved…it basically meant just pour on the morphine, then crank it up…. If I had known that beforehand, would I have made different decisions? Probably. It’s now 6 years later and my kids are still angry with me… I’m studying for a death doula certificate now (that’s how I found your work) but I find it too depressing to study sometimes, knowing I’ll likely be widowed once again… (Happily I met and married my late husband’s childhood friend 3 years ago. It’s wonderful but not always easy!) So – lots of angst for me during this self-chosen isolation, for sure; too much time to think…. Also frustration that Dr’s don’t advocate Oil of Oregano use etc which have saved my hide more than once, when others around me got very sick! Enough venting – I’m going to go finish painting /antiquing a magazine rack of my late in-laws. That’s the only thing that has really cheered me up lately – taking up a new hobby – hopefully some of my “work” will live on long after I’m gone!

MIchael Onett - March 17 2020

Hi Barbara, I resonated with and really appreciated your piece. May I share it with our team and our patients? All the best …I’ll follow your lead!
Michael Onett
Faith and Family Supportive Care & Hospice

Susy Gaffney - March 17 2020

Don’t usually comment, just read and process your good words , Barbara. This article made me think of the feisty, petite, matriarch who was a patient of mine on Hospice for over 4 years with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She arose at the same early hour daily, showered, dressed, made up, hair done perfectly, every single day until the last three days of her life (when her daughter did all she could to get her hair combed every one of those 3 days). I firmly believe her faith and her tenacity was what kept her going so long. In those years, she outlived at least 8 other younger family members, and was the one the family always came to as the person to call all the far away relatives each time some else passed. She was 97 when she died, and she never failed to bless and pray for every person who entered her home. I still miss those visits. . . . you’re right, Barbara, people die as they live. I choose living without any regrets for the past . . . it keeps me humble.

ALTHEA HALCHUCK - March 17 2020

I love your insights. I too am self-distancing because I am considered “elderly” at 69. How did that happen???? I don’t feel old, just a little older. I am recovering from pneumonia so I am staying away from most humans. My husband, at 77, has gone grocery shopping for the first time in our 20 years together. I think we have become closer because of this virus. I talk to my daughter and young grand kids in Massachusetts daily and they always make me smile. Stay well! This too shall pass…

barbara - March 16 2020

Hi Shelly, thank you for sharing your journey. You are a Light that shines showing us how to live until we are not. Blessings! Barbara

Barbara - March 16 2020

Hi Marcia, about your question of will your mom notice you are not visiting. I can’t specifically say because I don’t have enough information about your mother’s dementia but my guess is she probably will not be aware of the length of your absence. People with advanced dementia really live in their own world, their own time. It is hard for us to relate because our reality is very time focused. Also, not visiting a person in a nursing home is not just a safety issue for the one relative or friend you are visiting but an issue, a risk, for everyone in the nursing home including care staff.
This will be a challenging time not being able to visit your mom but you are doing the right thing.
Blessings to you and your mother. Barbara

Shelly Cole - March 16 2020

Hi Barbara, First, I’d like to just say that I think you’re one of the most phenomenal persons that I’ve never met. Your observations are spot on. As someone who was told Sept 2016 that I was dying, placed in Hospice in Oct., almost died the end of Oct. as in I quite breathing and it took them almost 10 min. to get me breathing again. Made it through the end of the year, around the corner into 2017, made some kind of rally, and was discharge the end of Jan 2017 from Hospice. I’ve been sick for 20 years with an undiagnosed lung disease, asthma, now diabetes… My existence was really quite purposeless. I was and still am, disappointed that I’m still here. I feel oddly cheated. I’m LONG SINCE ready to be done. But I don’t get to make that call. Wish as I might, I just keep breathing.

Having read some of your work, blogs, including this one, I think it’s safe to say that I have gone through pretty much what you describe in this entry. Except I don’t have a husband and live alone. I knew I needed a reason to wake up in the morning besides my eyes just opened. It took a bit, but I found a great little puppy, who needs me. And yes, I clearly needed him…

Then I got involved with a Q & A forum. Oddly enough, people seem to like my opinions, ideas, and advice. I began to get many requests, sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but that’s okay, as I have the time. But it’s really been a blessing. A few weeks ago, I was able to talk a guy out of committing suicide. Somehow, I was able to use what I’ve been through to give him a perspective that no one had apparently ever said to him. Really, I all said was that he was worthy of being loved.

The bottom line of what I’m working towards here, is that as we go into this time of social distancing, self isolation, ___________, fill in the blank, we may be seperated, but we can still make contact with people. we can still perform random acts of love and kindness. What may come out of this, among other things, is a much better understanding of the isolation that many infirmed, and Hospice patients, go through. There’s nothing like living in someone’s shoes to provide a better understanding.

Even after having been discharged from Hospice, I chose to continue to receive your blog posts and wait for them every month with much anticipation! You amaze me! Your dedication, your stamina, your passion, and I could go on… I’m just very grateful for your insights. Thank you, for sharing your beautiful gift!

Tracy Branham - March 16 2020

Please send the series of your books.

Marcia Florkey - March 16 2020

Even though my husband is 70 and I am 66, it seems so odd that we are “the elderly” and the ones to be cared for. My Mom at 96 is the “elderly”! She has advancing dementia but is being cared for by Hospice in a wonderful, caring long term care facility. However, at our state governor’s orders, skilled nursing facilities are not allowing any visitors and I totally understand that, just doesn’t make it any easier.

I am wondering if Mom will understand why her family isn’t visiting? Time is not a concept she understands as much anymore, so I’m not sure she will realize how long it will be between visits. I’m also wondering if the lack of social contact (by family) for her will be worse for her in the long run, then possibly being exposed to the virus? Just wondering . . .

Kathy Duhaime - March 16 2020

Wise words to reflect on aa we too have just begun a period of quarantine related to the virus. I have been reaching out to family & friends 😘

Martha Tolen - March 16 2020

Local grocery stores have nearly been striped bare by frantic people, They seem to have lost not only the reason to get up, shower, and get dressed, but they seem to have lost their hope for the future and their care and appreciation of everyone around them.

Will overflowing cupboards of food keep them safe, reassure them, help them envision a bright future after this “bump in the road”? Will a full grocery cart solve the issue of a virus? I think not.

I attended church services yesterday by phone Conference call. We called out our names when we dialed in, greeted warmly by friends. We prayed for the needs of those we care about and for people who we have never met. We read Scripture to remind each other of the love that surrounds us. Our world must remain larger than our cupboards.

Thank you for your wise words about self care and reaching out to others.

Christine - March 16 2020

Thank you for this insight Ms. Barbara. Have just started doing that! Minus the travels, am doing some catching up and reconnecting with family and friends and appreciating the quality of time.

Susie Krepel - March 16 2020

Thanks, Barbara. I just read this after hearing another news conference on the sad plight we
find ourselves in at the present time. Your words were so right on – very close to how I’ve been
feeling – and it’s eye-opening to compare how we’re feeling now to how people with a terminal
diagnosis feel. My husband and I also have become closer, more affectionate and caring of each other – without really talking about it, but the feeling is there. Hold tight to the blessings of every day and everyone that we love. This reminds us how soon it can all end. Blessings to you and to
each and everyone of us.

Patty Brennan - March 16 2020

So good, as always, Barbara. I appreciate you.

Dia na - March 16 2020

I have had some of the same thoughts.
I just got home recently from a travel nurse assignment ( hospice)
I eas gone 6 months.
I was home a week and then got sick. Flu like symptoms. I self isolated as well..Going on day 9. I live alone and have felt like how my patients have felt.
Lots of self reflection.
So many things I am sorry for.
How many things I have said to hurt people be ause I was hurt

And how none of that maters. None of that stuff is that important. Be kind. Because it is so hard to unwind those mean nasty words.

Katherine Arnup - March 15 2020

As always you something wise and reflective to offer us. I am just feeling the challenge of self isolation hits me in Ottawa Canada. So much to learn in these lives of ours (even if we meet this challenge kicking and screaming!)

Lynn Williams - March 15 2020

Thank you Barbara. Love your words. Stay well.

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