by Chaplain Brianna Lloyd

We’re all been hearing about caring for our isolated kupuna amidst the COVID-19 crisis. And though I don’t know the varied experiences of seniors across the country during this pandemic, I can testify to what I’ve witnessed among the community here at Pohai Nani. What’s often been expressed as a one-sided giving to those vulnerable to the virus seems to be more of a mutual give and take.

Beginning in mid-March, our campus first limited, and then completely stopped, all non-essential visitors, including family members. We also stopped gathering in groups and began practicing the social distancing of six feet or more. Eventually, everything but periodic visits to mailboxes or walks outside were limited for the sake of keeping everyone healthy.

The effects of these restrictions have varied from person-to-person, moment-by-moment. Feelings expressed are those that are familiar to most of us—anxiety, grief, loneliness, rejuvenation, exhaustion, and the need for solitude.

Our staff has transitioned roles and increased collaborative efforts across departments. The Dining staff, for example, has made significant changes to implement room delivery three times a day. A new role for the Chaplains’ office was also instituted, which enables us to collaborate with the Assisted Living staff to check temperatures daily. We’ve also collaborated with the transitional work of Wellness and Resident Services to distribute newsletters and activity bags to residents. And the ever-caring leadership team, spearheaded by Tish Camero, have been working tirelessly and cheering us all through these changes.

In turn, the Pohai Nani residents have also been cheering on the staff. Letters of appreciation are posted daily on the bulletin board. And of course, there’s no clearer testimony of this mutual encouragement than our weekly pep rallies. It’s been such a joy to step outside on the lanai, with each resident stepping onto theirs, to share in a cheer, a song or dance, a pounding of pots and pans. There are 14 floors of around 160 lanai featuring people cheering together and encouraging one another. During this practice, we smile and greet one another, reminded that we are not alone as we navigate these uncertain and strange times together.

Providing care and being cared for are crucial to the survival process, and have always been central to my experience at Pohai Nani. This has never been, nor will it ever be, a one-way giving; rather, it’s part of the journey of life. We offer ourselves as supporters and encouragers of one another. During days such as these when we ourselves cannot cheer, may we experience others cheering for us.