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My Turn: My caregiving will outlast the pandemic

Miriam Furman has expanded her family caregiving during

Miriam Furman has expanded her family caregiving during the pandemic. Credit: Miriam Furman

As the pandemic raged on, I assumed more responsibility for three relatives: a mother with memory loss who’s almost 90; an elderly uncle in an assisted-living facility in Florida; and a cousin with mental illness who lives in New York City. My husband calls them my three wards. Although life on Long Island is beginning to return to normal, my oversight remains vigilant.

I hired an aide to help get my mother on an airplane so she could fly back from Florida to join our Long Island household just as the pandemic tightened its grip on society in March 2020. She would have been isolated in her condominium if she had stayed there because COVID-19 restrictions prevented her companions from continuing to take her out in the afternoons. I didn’t want her to become a prisoner in her own apartment, so she came up north and has lived mostly with us ever since.

My uncle remained in his southern Florida assisted-living residence, confined to his room for all his meals for close to a year. Two weeks after receiving my second COVID vaccine, I flew to Florida to check on him, bringing my fully vaccinated mother along for a brief stay in her Delray Beach apartment. She loved being in the Florida sun after having received her second vaccine dose during a snowstorm just three weeks earlier at Jones Beach State Park.

My cousin spent the pandemic in and out of psychiatric hospitals as she lost confidence in her ability to navigate uncertainty and was unable to manage the tasks of daily living. She caught COVID-19 while hospitalized during the pandemic’s early days and spent 10 days in isolation. Then she stayed with us for two months shortly after her discharge. She is still suffering from the virus’ effects on her mental health more than a year later. It has caused memory loss and made her reluctant to leave her apartment.

As a person who feels deeply committed to family, I’ve increased my oversight of these relatives, speaking more often with the director at my uncle’s residence and taking the big step of becoming my cousin’s legal guardian. I hired an attorney to petition a New York court for guardianship, a more difficult and expensive process than I had imagined. I endured a change of judge, several postponements and a virtual hearing, which took place with my cousin participating from a hospital conference room. During the proceedings, she agreed to a time-limited guardianship.

In my new capacity, I plan to advocate more effectively to help her obtain better-supervised housing while managing her finances to ensure there are funds to cover expenses and handle emergencies. I will serve as an intermediary as needed with social workers, counselors and doctors. Now that I have legal status, I will no longer be excluded from decisions, and I hope that my interest and involvement will be beneficial.

Patience and fortitude will assist me in handling this new responsibility while I look out for my mother’s and uncle’s well-being. I’m sure there are many others whose increased care of family during the pandemic will continue as we move forward. As COVID-19 restrictions lessen, loving care and familial ties that bind us could be the constant that helps society recover.

Miriam Furman,

Roslyn

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