Clipping the Wings of a Social Butterfly
That has become somewhat of a standard response exclaimed by Oliver* when you ask him how he’s doing. For three months now, Oliver, one of Mercy Home’s residents, like most of us, has been self-quarantined at home due to the novel coronavirus pandemic which has hit the New York City region especially hard.
Nonetheless, Mercy Home’s essential and heroic frontline workers have worked tirelessly in trying to keep residents safe, active and engaged. Oliver admits, things haven’t been all bad. With the help of Mercy Home supporters, his residence received more games, such as his favorite game, Bingo as well as entertainment devices, which allows him to watch his favorite classic musicals on streaming devices and DVDs.
He also admits he’s had more time to spend with his housemates and he has been communicating with family; chatting about the things they have in common and envisioning a life of normalcy after the virus. Oliver is looking forward to getting out and about and seeing his beloved NY Yankees.
“We gonna see a [baseball] game and then we’re going to go to Junior’s and I’m going to order a burger deluxe and chocolate cake.” As he shares the plans he’s making with his cousin.
The global health crisis and stagnant lifestyle, has resulted in staff being creative with keeping residents active, conducting frequent socially distance home exercises sessions and preparing hearty, healthy home cooked meals, which for a self-professed junk foodie like Oliver has been noticeable.
“Health wise, he’s doing excellent,” says his residence manager. “With the home cooked meals staff and our guys have worked together in preparing, we’ve noticed he’s been doing great.”
Life has been particularly challenging for the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, as recent reports have shown that men and women with developmental disabilities were more likely to test positive for the coronavirus and have amongst the most fatalities of any population.
With New York State’s Stay-at-Home order put in place in mid-March 2020, the state called for the suspension of all non-essential business and activities as the city grappled with this severe and growing global crisis. The order, though necessary to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus, has resulted in the indefinite suspension of Day Habilitation programs across the region. Day Habilitation programs, which typically operate Mondays through Fridays, offer a wide selection of supportive therapy, structured activities and allows residents to work with trained coordinators in order to build a sense of autonomy and develop the skills they need to live independently in their homes and communities.
However, even for one of our most autonomous residents like Oliver, coming to a full understanding of the severe health crisis facing the country still comes with its limitations.
“I want to go back to program, says Oliver. “I’m sick of COVID-19. I want to start going back out and I want to go to the stores and see my neighbors again because I haven’t been able to see them in a very long time.”
As local small businesses have also been deeply affected by the pandemic, they have largely remained closed as the city has dealt with the health crisis until they are given the greenlight to reopen again. But for a social butterfly like Oliver, the closures of these local businesses and restaurants means not being able to interact with the owners and employees, who he considers like friends, as he previously had done on a weekly basis for nearly a decade and a half.
For Oliver, it is the relationships that he misses most. “I miss getting free pizza but I miss the owner just as much as I miss the pizza,” he says.
Oliver is happy to see some restaurants and stores begin to open and agrees that the sooner everyone, including him does their part in stopping the spread, the sooner we can get back to some sense of normalcy. “We’ve been doing a good job here at home like washing our hands. We’re gonna beat the virus!”
*Names have been changed for privacy