Author: Markéta Pešoutová, OUSHI

83-year-old Monika lives in a retirement home in a large city in the Czech Republic. She shares her place with a roommate and due to the coronavirus, has not seen her family for many months. Visits to retirement homes have been prohibited for over a year now. “It feels like I’m in a cage.” Monika tells me, adding, “I feel sad and scared. I keep calling my family to make sure they are okay.”

To get around, she uses a medical walker. But unfortunately, she cannot go to the garden at the moment because the lift is in another part of the building, which is dedicated to residents with severe Covid-19 symptoms and thus cuts her off from going outside: “If I want to get outside, I’d have to go one floor down the stairs, but the elevator only goes from there. I would need to go through the other part (of the building), and if I can’t do it, I won’t get anywhere. So, I’m honestly closed in all the time, so really, just to the toilet.”

In this situation, it is the television that keeps her company at times when she needs comfort. However, “I do not even want to listen to the news anymore”, Monika admits, as hearing all the bad news about increased numbers of patients with Covid-19 make her feel blue. She also explains that the staff at the nursing home do not keep her sufficiently informed. “When we ask the nurses, they tell us that everything is fine and that we should not worry.” She notes, however, that fewer nurses come to work as most of them at one point or another have had to stay in quarantine.

To feel better, Monika makes an effort to clean and disinfect her room every day. “I know that the cleaning lady is doing the best she can, but she doesn’t reach my expectations.” Despite physical difficulties, Monika manages to wash the floor and clean her bed regularly. “Sometimes I almost fall down because my legs are not so stable. But it is worth it!” she adds proudly. For Monika, a clean environment brings a sense of security.

Even though Monika tries to keep everything clean, and she doesn’t meet anyone except the staff, one day Monika’s roommate tests positive for Covid-19. “I am curious how long I will be able to take this” Monika whispers. “There is no other place to go now. I have to stay here. And so must she,” she adds.

Monika tries to strengthen her immune system by taking vitamins every day. “I do not regret spending money on it!” Since her blood-vessels clog easily, she is afraid of the effects Covid-19 might have on her. “My sons call me every day and tell me to stay strong. How can I stay strong when we share a room and there are shared toilets on our floor too?”

As the testing continues, Monika manages to stay negative. “Every time they do the test I worry about the results.” As time passes, her roommate also gets better. “Now I’m just looking forward to seeing my sons and grandchildren. Hopefully this will all be over soon!”

Woman using her mobile phone in front of window