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social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2019

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The past two months have been a time of great anxiety for everyone. At this writing, 170,000 have died from COVID, 25% of the American workforce is unemployed, and the USA is polarized beyond anything I ever saw at any time in the 69 years of my life.

On top of the great challenges of the past months, I deal with dementia and am alternately fairly calm (in no small part due to great medical care and appropriate medications) and anxious and confused and memory-challenged. 

Over the past 10 years as I dealt with early-onset dementia I have used the idea of comfort activities to help me get through times of great turmoil and confusion.

A comfort activity for me is one that is predictable, one I know will be pleasant, and one I have probably done many times before. So I watch the Hunt for Red October for the 51st time or rewatch all the episodes of the 2000s version of Battlestar Galactica which I have seen at least a dozen times. Recently I have rewatched the four seasons of the Expanse almost a dozen times. been revisiting all the albums of the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers, and reading lots of books I have read several times since I initially enjoyed it years ago.

With dementia, I sometimes have to watch a movie a few times (or more) to understand it. And every repetition thereafter I find things I didn’t understand the previous times or forgot. But I always remember that the activity is one I like, one that is calming, and one that will not confuse me.

If you have early stages of dementia or are a caregiver for someone with dementia, try to identify comfort activities and try to do some several times a day. And, if you do not have dementia, I bet this same strategy can help you deal with trying times of confusion and anxiety.

The following mind map explains my view of comfort activities. Click on the image to expand it.

Why didn’t we realize that superb medical care by motivated and brilliant health care professionals would not be enough to tame the COVID-10 pandemic? We have the largest, most expensive, state-of-the healthcare system in the world.

But our healthcare delivery system is not designed to seamlessly prevent or counsel or treat such effects from a pandemic as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anger, anxiety, fear, excessive drinking, drug abuse, domestic (or other) violence, case management, food security, help to obtain income replacement, and guidelines for planning the future.

While our healthcare system can provide state-of-the-art medical care with state-of-the-art equipment and state-of-the-art professional training and state-of-the-art pharmaceutical interventions, it cannot get people to wear face masks during a respiratory pandemic or to rechannel fear into positive actions or put societal concerns above personal concerns at time when collective consensus is needed to improve the health of individuals.

If you want people to wear masks, you need to help them get over the psychological toll of the pandemic so they do not respond in anger.

Many terrified people cannot deal effectively with getting a new job unless you help them deal with the trauma from the pandemic that is “freezing” their inactions.

Our healthcare system has traditionally not included integrated counseling and psychotherapy, support groups, case management, food assistance, payment of medical bills, transportation, child care while ill with COVID or at a doctor appointment or job, homeschooling, and many other needed services.

If we cannot provide such social services we cannot expect people to follow guidance from public health officials about how to control the pandemic. Everyone needs and should have help to recover from the psychological and financial trauma and uncertainty in our lives. Unfortunately, our healthcare system is not designed to provide social services and these huge needs are not being addressed by our government.

We need to bring social and psychological services into the medical continuum of care now being used. And there is no way we can avoid doing so if we want the pandemic to come under control and to regain our lives.

The following mind map shows my thoughts on what the continuum of services is missing. Click the image to expand it.