Boca Raton, FL – Poor health, old age and COVID-19 have left many of our most vulnerable loved ones feeling isolated. Consuelo Jorgensen, 65, has been in an assisted living facility in West Palm Beach, Florida for the last two and a half years. Like most, she has dealt with the many challenges brought on by the pandemic. But she was not accustomed to the crucible of isolation.
“This current situation has put me in a bit of depression,” said Jorgensen. “So many things I used to enjoy I can’t do anymore.”
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Jorgensen and other residents of assisted living facilities are no longer able to enjoy the activities, entertainment and socialization they once did. In addition, visits from family and friends ended abruptly as long-term care facilities throughout the country became hotbeds of the coronavirus, claiming at least 131,000 lives.
“We can’t have any activities. We are not even really supposed to come out of our rooms. Before, we could go in and out of our facilities, but now, not even our relatives are allowed in,” said Jorgensen.
Jorgensen used to enjoy being a resident volunteer, which included planning activities and interacting with the other residents. Now, she enjoys using her time to help people in a different way. As a member of a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jorgensen participates in the preaching work, a hallmark of the religion.
“I enjoy being able to write letters, make phone calls and share good news with others. I am grateful for the opportunity to follow in Christ’s footsteps and participate in the ministry he left us.”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses shifted to virtual meetings in March 2020, congregants were still able to remain connected to their spiritual programs and support systems—a lifeline for isolated ones such as Jorgensen. Her congregation makes sure that she can participate in spiritual activities and that her needs are met.
“The virtual meetings are the most fantastic thing in the world! I don’t miss any meetings or the online convention. I give virtual Bible studies to two of my grandchildren – I have 13! And I have learned to not focus on the current discomfort, but rather focus on what’s ahead,” she said.
While her situation now is very different from when she first arrived at the assisted living facility, Jorgensen maintains her joy.
“I am grateful for life, for the staff at our facility and all they do for me. They work so hard. And I am so thankful for the support of my congregation, the weekly virtual meetings, my personal Bible study and prayer. But most importantly, I am grateful for my relationship with my God, Jehovah. Nothing is as precious to me as that,” she concluded.
For Sharon Southerland, 84, who is bedridden in a Jacksonville, Florida nursing home, weekly visits from friends were her lifeline.
After nearly seven decades of reading the Bible and practicing her faith, Southerland knew the importance of not falling victim to the depths of despair. “I have time to sit here and do all the Bible study I would ever want. How could I be depressed?”
She still sees her friends at congregation meetings and participates in her Christian ministry six days a week all through Zoom. “We have so many mutual interests and positive things to talk about,” she said. “It has sustained me.”
Residents confined to long-term care facilities long for reunions with family and friends. Regardless of when pandemic restrictions might lift, Southerland is sure of one thing: “Joy is not dependent on circumstances. Whatever may lie ahead—I’m not afraid of it. I’m counting on joy.”
More information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including resources for coping with isolation, can be found on their official website, jw.org.