(Open letter from the president of Réseau FADOQ, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman.)
It is as if misfortune took a mean pleasure in attacking the most fragile, the most vulnerable, the most isolated. The cancellation of holiday gatherings is the last straw for those already reeling with frustration, pain, anger, boredom and loneliness.
Today, my heart is in tatters. I hurt, as a daughter, mother, grandmother, friend and volunteer. And, naturally, as president of the Réseau FADOQ.
I feel sorrow and—I confess—some anger, at the idea of being deprived of my loved ones during the holidays. I have the same feelings when I think of all the seniors who had been clinging to the life raft of being with family at Christmas. I understand their sadness, I understand that their morale has taken a hit.
Isolation. Solitude. Postponed medical appointments. Health problems. Cancelled home support services. Financial troubles. Loved ones forced to keep their distance. And of course, the fear of getting the miserable virus. The havoc the pandemic has caused is endless.
To seniors in Québec, I say this: I understand you. I sympathize with you. Christmas has always been a period of happiness and social gatherings. It is the ultimate celebration for cementing our relationships with other people. It is a time of love.
We are being asked to be wise. And wiser still. We are being asked to be resilient. Once again. To be understanding. To accept that we cannot see our children and grandchildren. For our own well-being, and also for that of the people we love, to protect those who work in the health system, daycares and schools. Above all, to avoid giving someone we love a poisoned gift called COVID.
Deciding not to get together during the holiday season is undoubtedly a huge testimonial of love. It’s a major sacrifice. Perhaps the greatest we’ve been asked to make this year. But certainly it’s worth it when you know that so many lives are at stake.
As president of the largest seniors’ organization in the country, I feel it is my duty to remind people of the importance of respecting the rules being imposed on us, even though it requires an immense effort.
I am well placed to say that we must do everything we can to wage a determined battle against seniors’ isolation. It is more important than ever to make contact during the holidays with those who are alone.
Let’s use our imagination to find ways to bring them warmth and love. Any means are good: phone call, email, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, etc., photos, a simple caring gesture, gifts, videoconference games, etc. Creativity is the order of the day.
The Legault government’s decision hurts, but it does not change the fact that visits by family/informal caregivers are still possible in all living environments, regardless of the level of alert. In some regions, visits and outings are still allowed. And, those who live alone can have a single visitor anytime. Please, let’s not forget that!
The cancellation of Christmas gatherings is obviously not accepted unanimously, neither by the population nor by our 550,000 members. This is no surprise after the hell we’ve been through since March. It was to be expected that the government’s decision would be met with discontent. For some seniors, it’s too much, while for others, it’s the relief of knowing that everything is being done to prevent the virus from creeping into their living environment.
The Réseau FADOQ sincerely hopes that 2020 will forever change the way seniors are considered in society. I appeal to Quebecers’ compassion and innate sense of respect. Cherish society’s older members. Show kindness. But let us also force the hand of governments that fail to provide too many seniors with a minimally decent income. Governments who could do more and better in the management of health care, the shortcomings of which seniors have borne the brunt more than once during the pandemic. Over the past several years, governments, both provincial and federal, have come up short. The health system is sick and in need of intensive care. The necessary resources will have to be devoted to this.
I’m certain that better days lie ahead. We must hold on. We will not be getting together this holiday season. But there is no reason why, once the pandemic is behind us, we cannot gather together and reinvent Christmas, in the summer if we must. Stay hopeful. Focus on small pleasures. And, despite everything, happy holidays.