Restoring Hope

Members | January 21, 2021 | by Carol Silver Elliott

Carol Silver Elliott, board chair of LeadingAge, talks about hope in 2021.

I don’t even know what adjective to use anymore when I describe the past year. It’s been a year of challenge, of crisis, of anxiety. It’s been a year when time really felt as if it stood still, one day dragging endlessly into the next, punctuated only by another sleepless night.

But now we sit on the brink of a new day. Some of us have already had two injections of the COVID-19 vaccine and others are in the queue and soon to receive it. Our staff and our elders have or will have, the opportunity to receive the only protection we have from this vicious virus. As I said to our team, the vaccine is the only tool in our toolkit, the only weapon in our arsenal to fight COVID.

How grateful we are to receive the vaccine and move forward, to begin to truly see light at the end of the tunnel. As we’ve rolled out vaccines, many of us have posted pictures of the vaccine clinics on social media. It’s funny to read people’s comments on those posts. Inevitably someone writes the words “You’re so lucky.”

I can’t say it has felt lucky to be working in elder care this year. My dad would have joked “Oh you have plenty of luck. It’s just all bad!” Not sure I agree with that entirely either. I understand where the “luck” comment comes from; I know that many people are anxious to get the vaccine and are frustrated by the complexity and inefficiency of most of the state processes. But luck is not relevant here.

We, our staff, and our elders have paid dearly for the opportunity to be a priority for vaccination. We have suffered and struggled, scrounged, and fought to save our elders and to save our organizations. We have stood at bedsides while beloved elders lost the battle, we have seen staff lose a loved one and come right back to take up the fight, we have seen people whose lives are forever changed by this virus. And we have watched as our work, and our commitments, have been tarnished by the media’s relentless blame and negativity.

This is our moment to be proud of how hard we have worked, how much we have sacrificed, how well—despite all odds—we have succeeded. This is our moment to put our elders and staff first and say firmly that they’ve earned the right to be protected, that this most vulnerable population and the people who care for them are not just worthy, but deserving, of this opportunity for protection, for safety.

Let us look to the future with renewed hope, remembering the importance and value of the work that we do and the care that we provide. Our missions are meaningful and vital, and our staff and organizations make us proud. Together we must continue to move forward and hold each other up.