TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
OpinionEssays

In lockdown, visiting my mom means a wave from her balcony

The writer's mother, Vivian Schachter, waves to son

The writer's mother, Vivian Schachter, waves to son Saul Schachter at The Regency Assisted Living facility in Glen Cove during a "balcony visit."

As with many others during these tough times, I am concerned about the elderly — specifically my mother, now 90, living at The Regency Assisted Living facility in Glen Cove. But Mom seems to be holding up just fine, although in the beginning, I don’t think she quite appreciated what was going on. “Saul, we’re in lockdown,” she told me over the phone in mid-March. “No one is allowed in. No one is allowed out. Do you want to come over for lunch?”

I told her, reluctantly, I didn’t think that was going to work.

Mom, we learned, was able to take her meals in the dining room and walk around the facility. But she couldn’t have visitors. The next week, the restrictions were tightened: Meals and medication would be served in her room. The temperatures of the residents would be taken each morning. She could walk around the fourth floor where she lives and, with an aide, visit the balcony overlooking School Street on the second floor.

She chafed a bit at the restrictions, but she understood.

Before the lockdown, she would work out on Mondays and Fridays with a trainer at the YMCA, attend synagogue twice a week and concerts and lectures at the local library, and stroll around the neighborhood with her walker. Inside, she’d attend classes and listen to her audiobooks, with David McCullough being a favorite author.

Now, her life is different. She still has her audiobooks and TV (her favorite show is “Blue Bloods”), but she misses her exercise. She goes to physical therapy, but “it’s not enough,” she moans. She wants to do more. Despite her poor vision and shaky hearing, Mom is strong as an ox. Once during the pre-pandemic days when the elevators at the Regency were on the fritz, she wanted to walk up to her apartment, but Regency authorities put the kibosh on. “You can’t walk up by yourself, but we can get an aide to go with you.” Mom agreed, and a young fellow was enlisted to help her. They went up one flight, Mom was fine, but he was out of breath, huffing and puffing. Another aide completed the climb.

But what Mom misses most, I think, is the human contact with family. We can’t join her in the Regency, but we’ve come up with a few alternatives: Once a week we have “balcony visits” where she emerges on the second-floor balcony, I stand on the street, and we yell and wave to each other. We’ve introduced Mom to Zoom, though she’s still trying to get the hang of it. Before we connected her to Congregation Tifereth Israel’s online Friday night service, she told me she wanted to put on her nice dress. I assured her that whatever she wore would be fine as nobody would see her from the neck down.

Despite her outwardly upbeat attitude, I know Mom is getting cabin fever. I’ve told her when this is all over, hopefully, we’ll resume our lives as before. She can take her classes, attend synagogue, and, if the offer still stands . . . I’ll come over for lunch. And, Mom, no need to escort me up the stairs. I’ll take the elevator!

Reader Saul Schachter lives in Sea Cliff.

Columns