Locked down with the virus at the door


If you live in a retirement community, you are surrounded by vulnerable people – it is the nature of the beast.

Once you move here, they become your friends and neighbors, and you care what happens to them, to the facility, and to yourself in the place you have chosen for your ‘forever home.’

When you get the WEEKLY notice of the results of testing (the whole staff is now being tested once a week):

  1. A private duty aide tested positive.
    • We received results on 8/20.
    • We have not identified prolonged direct exposure to other staff members.
    • This individual provided care for 5 residents. Each of these individuals has been contacted and will be tested. None of these 5 residents are believed to have had any contact with other residents or staff.

and you realize that those in charge are thinking that they will have to continue ‘at least two more weeks as a result of the positive case,’ you also realize they are living in a dream world where, without treatment, cure, or vaccine, they think it’s going to get better – OR they’re saying that because they think WE might feel better – you realize you are living in a situation that you have no control over, and it will continue for a very long time to come.

Everyone is under stress ALL the time

We took the not-fun stress of getting older, old enough to move into a place where you are no longer responsible for a house and yard, and moved.

We haven’t recovered, not really, from the move.

We have never quite completely moved in – the assistant we were hiring is not permitted to come in and help because she is not considered ‘essential.’

The ‘private duty aides’ ARE essential – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a life, a home, kids, families – and go home to them every day.

We live in a web of interconnections

The reason we are here is because we estimate that some point in the future we will need the help the aides provide, and it is much easier to do it through a facility than one of us caring for the other.

Our kids will probably never all live close, and we made this move so they wouldn’t become caretakers or even arrangers of care, because, with all the good will in the world, it is a humongous job to take care of parents.

None of us planned for such a far-reaching and deadly pandemic.

Je Ne Regrette Rien – moving was the right decision.

But we were going to move, dump the house and responsibilities, and travel – from a home base which we could just turn the key on and forget.

We’re in the age group where, if we take reasonable care, we could expect to live another 30 years. I want to go home to Mexico to visit my family. I want to find a way to do some gentle travel to Europe. If I ever get a bit better, I would love to ski again.

Or hike. Or camp (even in an RV instead of a tent).

With the kids, I want to do a family vacation every year, so they stay connected with us and with each other, and we have fun.

There has been a kink in the plans.

I struggle every day to write, while at the same time fully realizing that stress kills, and there is too much on everyone right now.

Here is a stress inventory.

It is good to take one periodically, to see if things are under control, and if they are getting better or worse.

IIRC, inventory numbers over 300 are practically a direct warning of major illness coming soon, and lower numbers are not ignorable.

I don’t dare take the inventory right now.

Instead, I am taking every possible relaxation approach to dealing with what I know is there.

An important part of dealing with stress is simply acknowledging it

And looking for a time in the (we hope near) future when it will be less.

Which is what we were aiming for, until the latest notice from the county which put the kibosh on using the outdoor pool (which was about to go from 3 to 5 days a week) – because of a new menace, FIRES!

And realizing that others have it far worse than we do.

So, when it gets stressful, I blog – and dump some of it.

Records, records, records

I’m also recording for posterity, as these post are part of the ‘accidental autobiography’ I’m creating by writing bits and pieces in a series of places: emails to friends, notes on the computer, annotations in the Production File I have open for every scene I write, blog posts, and the unlikely storage in social media.

I just requested a current copy of my Facebook information – and will store it on the external hard drive.

Wattpad deleted the forums – and did not give us a chance to do that – so I lost all my forum activity.

I did download everything I created for my Patreon account – some of which may be used again down the line if I serialize the second book, NETHERWORLD.

And I also realize that this is of importance to no one but myself.

And remind myself that I need to create a document for our children which summarizes the information about the family that they might like to have when we’re gone.

ASK YOURSELF what you need to do to reduce stress – and what you need to record for the future – and do it one of these days. Tell us in the comments!



22 thoughts on “Locked down with the virus at the door

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I never look forward to a doctor’s appointment. They are always a torture of trying to explain what I need, to get it from a medical establishment which has been indifferent, if not downright hostile, to my disease, for thirty years, and which barely manages to handle some pain relief.

      While constantly wanting me off of what I know works – which isn’t even a narcotic!

      The idea of going to the doctor for help is the last one on my list.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. marianallen

        My doctor is about my age, and I’ve been going to her for around 35 years. I dread the day she retires, which is bound to come sooner or later. She’s the best! I’m well aware of my good fortune in having her.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thank you. I have such a tiny life right now, never leaving the apartment now that the air is of such poor quality because of the fires, that the stress is hard to deal with. I keep telling myself there are SOME fires every year.

      Stay safe. Skip the drama.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. acflory

    Damn…couldn’t like this one. I don’t pray but I have all my fingers and toes crossed that the infection will be a one-off and doesn’t spread to any of the other staff, or residents. I know you’re talking all available precautions so I won’t add to your stress. -hugs-


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      We are fortunate in that we are still young enough (70 and 72) that we don’t need caretaker help, though I miss having an assistant dreadfully.

      They are doing the best that they can. They are testing the entire staff every week. And we all know that may not be enough – for those who have to have contact with staff who go home every night.

      There are GoFundMes for the two staffers who have lost their homes in Vacaville.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. acflory

        There is another option but it’s a hard one. Apparently in at least one care home in the UK, the carers moved in /with/ the residents and isolated themselves with their charges. Clearly not something that everyone can do but perhaps some might volunteer if given the option.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          We have no place to put them here, and not enough caretakers who would stay – a lot of our food staff are quite young, and we’re trying to keep them all employed. The care staff are often working women with families.

          I don’t think it would be feasible here, but I know some places have done that. It’s harder when it’s going to go on for so many more months.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Sharon

    Stress levels do seem to be exceptionally high at the moment. have just spent a week dealing with stressed out students, in fact, I have never known students to be in such a heightened state of stress as they seem to be this semester. My university is still only delivering teaching online and the student body is certainly more stressed than normal. I find that dealing with other people’s stress increases mine, so I am wisely taking a week to run away to the bush and the beach, away from people, my biggest source of stress.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I can’t get anywhere. We haven’t bought a car nor gotten a driver’s license in California – and I don’t walk well or much – so we’re stuck in a small apartment.

      I’m glad you can get away. I don’t know what I would do in your position – with students to be accountable for AND authorities. I homeschooled our three after I got sick, pre-K through ready for college, but we had the flexibility and did as we/I pleased.

      Stress kills. That’s the bottom line. We need to find ways to relieve and remove it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lloyd Lofthouse

    My sister turned 90 this month and she lives in a retirement community in a suburb of Seattle.

    Then there is the 2nd wave that hasn’t hit yet. “Will There Be A Second Wave of COVID-19?”

    “In short? Yes, there most certainly will. Or, looking at it from another perspective, there might not be a second wave as the first one won’t end. In any case, which scenario is more probable depends on your country’s leadership and decisions and whether people will be compliant enough to go along with the restrictions. Because how governments are preparing for it over the next few weeks will be crucial in the fight against the pandemic. …

    “A hundred years ago, the Spanish Flu (NOTE: that pandemic did not start in Spain. It started in the United States) also had a second wave. And it was far deadlier than the first one.”


    “While it’s unlikely that the ‘Spanish Flu’ originated in Spain, scientists are still unsure of its source. France, China, and Britain have all been suggested as the potential birthplace of the virus, as has the United States, where the first known case was reported at a military base in Kansas on March 11, 1918.”



    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Like most flu versions, it might have originated in China, but it’s hard to tell afterward.

      ‘A military base’ is something that might have had foreign contact.

      We just have to keep hoping for a vaccine that actually keeps the vulnerable from catching what is far more dangerous to us than to the population at large – and that is a rare vaccine.

      The current flu vaccines are not that good.

      Hope your sister stays well.


  4. Jeanne

    That stress assessment is interesting–some of the things they consider stressors are not things I would have thought of as stressful, at least at first. But it all adds up, literally.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I remember counseling one of my youg assistants to fill it out. She was a first-generation American, 21, trying to earn enough money to buy her parents’ resident status (it’s very expensive), work full time, do more schooling after an associates degree, and deal with family back home in Ecuador. She was off the charts.

      I think I made her realize what was going on a bit, and she talked with her doctor.

      But people don’t realize that even ‘good stress’ is stress: marrying, or marrying off one of the children; grandchildren – helping with them or worrying because they’re in Australia; getting things ready for a big anniversary party or a vacation – all can become too much, especially when added to other stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris

    The way you concluded the post got me thinking – rather out loud, so the following is not the result of any deep contemplation:

    Is “reduce stress” entirely compatible with “record for the future”?

    I totally understand the desire to record for the future; I do it too, though I’m younger than you. I’m just wondering (again, thinking aloud), to which extent people in general become excessively stressed by being preoccupied with the future, to the extent they neglect the present.

    One of the books I relied on for my doctoral dissertation was West-Pavlov’s Temporalities, and in it he describes a contemporary behavioral pattern regarding time, that has made quite an impression to me. I paraphrase, using text from a blog post of mine:

    Nowadays, people are preoccupied with the present not as such, but as a reconstructed past which will be recalled at some undefined future time. In other words, people have developed a quasi-obsessive need to store their present experience so that they can remember it (as past) in the future. The catch-22 of this is that their actions bring about the very opposite effect. As they are preoccupied with storing the present instead of actually living it, they form no mental images of it. There is no memorable experience, because there is no experiencing. At this undefined future point, they’ll sit down and watch the pictures, but it will be a zombie experience; the affect will be absent. That is, if this undefined future point ever comes. How many times have you ever gone through the untold thousands of photos in your hard drive to find the video of a concert you went to 7 years ago?

    Naturally, the dynamics are entirely different if you’re a 17-year-old at a concert, compared to being a 67-year-old with a whole life of experiences to talk about. Still, the curse-gift of the human experience is (to paraphrase Schopenhauer) our ability to envision futures in which we won’t, under any circumstances, be part of. You could be 17 with one year left to live (without knowing it), or you could be 67 with another 40 years left (again without knowing it). Honestly, I don’t know which would be worse.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      When you are a child, and have your heart set on the Astronaut Corps, you know you’re going to have a hard time getting there unless you have a PhD in a hard science (because being an MD is out – don’t do squishy stuff). And that you aren’t going to get that unless you stick to the books, go straight to grad school from college – and have no semester abroad.

      So I did. That was all present.

      The other part is that I have trouble remembering some things – and I’m concerned. Not that it matters – but I thought I’d at least have a place where I can record them, in case I want to remember at some point.


      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

        Also, I want to write down for the kids things like the names of their ancestors – and basic dates – in case they ever seem to develop an interest – and while I still know.

        With covid-19 hanging around, I might not be here.



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