Riding out the storm in a CCRC

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is a giant bubble.

I went swimming (okay, floating around) in the indoor pool for the first time in almost a month, since I got the flu.

Not another soul around.

On the way back, I went outside for a short bit – and we had dinner with friends.

This is as normal as it’s going to get. Our hatches are battened down. We are in a virtual lock-down – no one in from the outside who isn’t necessary.

Food selections are far fewer – but still someone else’s job. The servers, many of them high school kids and college kids, are doing a lot to keep us clean, and counter and door knobs wiped – and we’re going hard doing the same.

It’s going to be long – we were estimating it will take at least a couple of months. So we are cautiously supporting each other, and happy we moved here – this would have been soul-killing in NJ, even though there are so many more potentially infectious people here.

I don’t know what will happen – apparently this is Level 2 – and they have plans up to Level 5!

I wonder if the service was as good on the deck of the Titanic.

Outside people – staff

First, our staff. For 350 or so people, we have 200 staff.

TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE who go home every night and come back the next day.

All of our staff live in Davis and the surrounding communities, including Sacramento.

Outside people – family and friends

A very large percentage of our residents come from the city of Davis (where the University of California, Davis, is located). Many taught at UCD, reared children in Davis, and/or still have a child or grandchild in the city.

For Sunday brunches and holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Easter and others, we have to make reservations in advance because so many family members come here. For a quite competitive price, it is easy to have your whole family come here for the holidays. After, while the grownups are talking, it is easy for a few of the parents to take the more wiggly kids swimming to tire them out.

So the connection to Davis is strong – and large.

We have been asked not to have any nonessential visitors – INCLUDING family members. No restrictions on going out – yet. Our oldest from San Francisco will not be coming.

Outside people – everyone else

Firefighters and ambulances are common here – they respond to all kinds of 911 calls, from falls to potential fatalities.

Outside workmen are here all the time, involved in ongoing maintenance and refurbishing the 10% of apartments that turn over in a typical year. There was a guy walking on the roof on the other side of the building this morning. Our roofs have just been replaced – possibly some kind of inspector.

Delivery personnel, including post office employees, are here daily – the front desk handles a mass of packages from all over. These people are now being asked to stop at the front desk and take a temperature scan, and their entry into the building is being minimized.

Staying occupied and involved will be up to us, individually.

All other groups – and we have concerts, lectures, trips, movies – from the outside are being canceled. We are mostly staying in our apartments – not congregating in groups of more than 20 has been requested by management.

We’re trying to ‘flatten the curve’

All we can really hope for is slowing the contagion. The concept is well delineated in a graph from various sources; FastCompany has the story AND several versions of the graph, including one that emphasizes what place like our CCRC are trying to do.

The idea is simple – even for those with a limited science/math background: our healthcare system (NOT uniformly spread over the whole USA) has a certain number of beds in intensive care (under a million), of which about 10% can support critical patients who need help with breathing (about 90,000 beds).

If we have too many people getting to the critical point where they need breathing support (like currently in Italy), then there literally will not be enough of these hospital beds to go around, and doctors will have to make tough choices about who gets one, AND THEY’RE ALREADY PLANNING ON THROWING OLDER PEOPLE AND PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY DISABLED or ILL WITH OTHER PROBLEMS (like ME/CFS) UNDER THE BUS – BY DENYING THEM ACCESS TO THE LIMITED BEDS.

So it is crucial to have people get sick at a slower rate.

Because we have no tools to STOP the virus yet. No vaccine, no immunity.

Slowing contagion is done by increasing the distance between people beyond 6 ft. (droplets from coughs make it about that far). Not going out. Not bringing people in.

And by proper cleaning techniques for surfaces (the CCRC staff plus residents are decontaminating surfaces frequently).

And by not transferring any virus particles to ourselves: proper hand-washing, and NOT touching our faces with hands which might be contaminated.

By letting medical personnel know if we have any of the symptoms: fever, cough, headaches… so a sick person can be further isolated if appropriate – and helped to get better.

It still takes SEVERAL WEEKS in intensive care to recover, if you’re one of the critically ill. During that time, you will be occupying a bed and having a lot of help with breathing, and taking a LOT of time from medical personnel.

That’s it for the current state of our waiting, quietly trying to conserve resources and delay the onset of the inevitable as long as possible.

Be sure you have books to read, ahem – long fat complex books – while waiting out the storm.


17 thoughts on “Riding out the storm in a CCRC

  1. joey

    I am terrible worried about my mother-in-law and her respiratory troubles. She lives in the sticks, but also, stick hospital — not a fan.
    I am DEEPLY disturbed by the wanton carelessness I’ve seen in the last ten days. Cannot relate to people shaking hands, among other things. I really want to stay home with my family and it may come to that without a federal or gubernatorial order. Monday is a wait and see for me. Mentor is going in to move data to the cloud so that we may work from home.
    Hopefully enough of us are exercising precautions enough to dull the spikes. Best hopes for your community.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      So many people are convinced that THEY will survive, so it doesn’t matter, and they should get sick and get it over with.

      While those who are vulnerable wonder which of the careless will infect them – and kill them or make them suffer terribly.

      Hard to forgive deliberate ignorance – and putting off admitting reality ALWAYS leads to the fall being much longer.

      I hope you and yours are well, and stay well. And I join you in worrying about your MIL. While being able to DO nothing.

      Those of us who are disabled or chronically ill live with this constantly; able people are not paying attention. Some of them WILL find out, too late – by having a very bad case.


      1. Widdershins

        That’s a great idea! The world needs ‘stories from the front lines’ like these … if nothing else it helps people realise that it’s everywhere, and everyday ordinary people are doing what they can to ‘flatten the curve’ so they, and others, might have a fighting chance if they do get sick. Bravo to your entire community.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Not feeling at all heroic, but at least most of the people here both understand the science and know how to behave (we’re full of academics and doctors).

          This is just so huge, it’s hard to know – but we can try, and I’m trying to diminish my ‘train wreck’ viewing because it isn’t useful in any way. But it’s fascinating, and not in a good way.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynda Dietz

    Our country is in such a mess right now. There have been no cases in my city (or my area of northwestern PA) so far, but the opposite end of the state has some big problems. However, our local churches have all voluntarily stopped all services and events for the time being (many of them for three weeks as the initial plan) so as to minimize the opportunity to spread the virus if/when it arrives here. Preventative measures can go such a long way, rather than trying to put the horse back in the barn. If we wait for the first signs to arrive, we’re that much further behind.

    What’s frustrating to me is that people are panicking so much that the rest of us who are trying to be sensible are essentially being punished for it. Zero cases of virus in my city, and yet the stores are stripped of not only toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies, but almost all fresh meats and canned goods. Even the typical small amounts I’d need to buy are just not available, so we’re trying to rethink how to be creative with what we do have. My concern is that when supplies start being replenished that those who didn’t initially hoard will feel the need to take their turn, so to speak.

    No easy solutions, but just sensibility and caring for one another where we can.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I think even the people who believe the authorities know what they’re doing realize that, if they’re wrong, it will be chaos. I just hope that people do massive donations to food banks and other charitable organizations when they can, out of those hoarded stores. Because, of course, those with no money are going to be disproportionately affected.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sharon

    My big concern is for our older family, my in-laws especially, trying to convince them to stay home as much as possible and let us take them anything they need, also trying to make sure we all stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Wishing you continued good health through these disturbing times.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks. Husband and I ARE the older family – and we’re staying home. But we’re particularly lucky (if sitting ducks if the virus gets in here) because this community has weathered some pretty big things before. Not this scale, but a norovirus, a fire in skilled nursing, other problems.

      We have stopped going to church for the duration; that’s where I got the flu three weeks ago.

      Older family members who pooh pooh the precautions are asking for it, though – sometimes they don’t take kindly to being told what to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sharon

        Very true but I think with the entire family rallying around they realise they need to look after themselves and let us help as much as possible at the moment. Stay safe it sounds like a good place to be.


  4. M T McGuire

    It must be particularly grim to be facing this after just having had flu. Thinking of you. It sounds as if your place are doing a good job. I hope this one passes you by.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It is.

      A society is JUDGED by how it takes care of its most vulnerable members, and I’m feeling very unwanted right now!

      Which should remind us to take care of the sick, and the hungry, the oppressed and the downtrodden in our societies, too.

      They should remember that we older people VOTE. Every time.

      This goes back to the belief that people should save their whole lives for their retirement – and then just give that all up. If you believe that old people are taking money they haven’t earned, it’s so easy to let ‘them’ take it away.

      Not exactly having the old folk live in the lap of luxury. If the younger people ever THINK, they’ll realize ‘society’ will be doing this to THEM the minute they are perceived as takers, just when they think they are supposed to be enjoying just rewards.




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