“She’s eligible, but there’s a waiting list.”

“The program sounded good but wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.”

“Don’t go the emergency room. They’re slammed with Covid.”

Health Care System Flatlining

America spends more for health care than any other nation, but has little to show for those extra bucks. And that was before Covid put a spotlight on our serious health care deficiencies.


Nowhere is it more apparent than in the so-called care for the elderly. Except for some (expensive) exceptions, most nursing facilities hire just enough staff to get by to avoid being cited by Medicare and Medicaid. And that was in the “good old days.” We know what Covid is doing to all health care entities, from hospitals, to nursing care institutions, to home care.

Today’s elderly

are tough. Those who fought or lived through World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War prove the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

So I think it’s time we, as a society, took a leaf from their book of conquering obstacles because the systems that once supported its citizens are on life support. Obviously, certain situations still require institutional or professional interventions. Other than that, we can rally and do far more for each other than we think.

The problem of distance

I don’t mean that family members live in other states; it’s the distances between our houses. I grew up in a small cape cod built during the second world war. My father mowed the front and back lawn with a lawn mower that comprised a rolling blade between two wheels. It did not take him long.

Many friendly conversations occurred over the back-yard fence. I recall the day my mother scrubbed the kitchen floor and told me to stay outside until it dried. But I was thirsty and cried —loudly. Nice Mrs. Kellner heard me and brought me a cold glass of 7-Up. That’s caregiving with a small c, but it meant a lot to me, especially since I was expecting water and got 7-Up instead!

Now, with half to one acre lots, casual conversations, the ones that grow friendships over time, are less frequent because we need to walk too far to get to the darn lot line. Perhaps the neighbor doesn’t even notice the guy next door is approaching and walks away. If we don’t get to know each other, how could he tell me he needed a ride to his doctor’s appointment today, or else reschedule for when Lift Line can pick him up?

How would I know Mary, who lives alone, is too sick this week to cook? Or needs someone to pick up her medications from the pharmacy?

It’s winter, the driveways are icy after the storm and Joe, who uses a cane after his knee surgery last month, risks falling outside. So he leaves his full garbage container in the garage for another week.

No beds are available in nearby assisted living facilities. Sharon takes her mother in but needs to attend an hours-long meeting this week. Who could pop in every couple of hours to check on her mom, or bring her lunch while Sharon is away from home?

What is the name of the person who moved into the house two doors down?

Time was, we knew the answer. Not so much now. Perhaps it is time to get to know our friends and neighbors better so we can literally “love thy neighbor.” Covid has wiped out many of the supports adult children relied on to help their parents.

It is said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” What did the Greatest Generation do? They rallied and helped each other in a thousand little and big ways. Call it caregiving with a small c or call it friendly community caregiving. Either way, the smallest act of caring may be someone’s life saver.

Joe didn’t fall because his neighbor took his garbage container to the curb and back again.

Mary got better because she had enough hydration and nutritious food.

Harry got to see his doctor today, and it is fortunate. A week later, his condition would have required hospitalization.

Sharon’s mom turned out to be a hoot and now a new friendship blooms.

Sounds like the makings of a richer life for all of us.