‘This is not the woman we know.’ Coronavirus highlights need for connection

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest opinion column by Heidi Arnold appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Tuesday, Dec. 29. Find letters to the editor about student debt below.

I held his arm as he navigated his wheeled walker though the muddy tire track and into the winter grass. This 95-year-old veteran was determined to see his wife of 72 years, even though it would be a window visit while COVID-19 was running rampant and the temperature outside was almost freezing.

A fractured bone took her out of independent living almost three months ago. He had seen her in the hospital and then once through a window with a cell phone almost a month ago. He was missing her desperately, but she missed him even more.

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Mentally, she’s witty and reasonable, still making conversations and valid observations. But as the days go by without family or friends to look her in the eye or touch her hand, she dips further and further into despair. She’s lacking motivation to eat, begging to come home, not asking for her glasses, and refusing physical therapy.

This is not the woman we know.

Effective phone calls are next to impossible since her hearing aids are generally lost or loaded with dead batteries. And so hope plummets.

According to the Center for Disease Control, social isolation is linked to a 50% increased risk of dementia—lack of thinking skills like problem solving and finding the right words along with memory loss.

The hoops to see each other are complicated when the two are living in separate facilities on lockdown with strict rules: he needs permission to leave his apartment and permission to visit her, he must wear a mask and shield with his glasses and hearing aids, and he must find a ride across town. But perseverance prevails.

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He stands outside peering through the only clean triangle of glass, shouting, “I love you, honey!”

I scribble notes with a marker and hold them to the glass, watching for her reaction as her lips move, and relay the words to him.

She laughs for what we believe to be the first time in months. She smiles and tells us the food is terrible by pointing to the tip of her tongue sticking out of her mouth. She uses charades to say she loves him by pointing to herself, her heart and then to him.

This lack of connection has been highlighted in these times of isolation, but let’s not forget about it after the virus is gone and when the doors of nursing homes and rehabs are open wide.

People are thirsty for us to hear them, to see them, and to touch them.

Heidi Arnold, a communication professor at Sinclair Community College. She is close friends with the couple at the center of this piece. Guest columns are submitted or requested fact-based opinion pieces typically of 300 to 450 words


Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: . In a guest column that appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Dec. 20, Cedarville University associate professor of finance John Tarwater reasoned that it would be a mistake if President-elect Joe Biden to cancel federal student debt after he takes office. Letters to the editor in response to his column appeared in the space Wednesday, Dec. 23.

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When my daughter was a little girl, I looked into her beautiful brown eyes with much love and started a savings account for her education. Eighteen years later, I had the money saved to put her through four years at Notre Dame. I knew the kid was smart. Proudest moment of my life. When these politicians start promising free secondary education paid by taxpayers, I wonder where the motivation will be for parents to start saving for their kid’s education rather than spending the money now on boats, cars and other trinkets, and relying upon the American taxpayer to pay for your kid’s school. If these promises to pay don’t materialize, who will?


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Student debt is, certainly, a problem that needs to be addressed. Graduating with a mountainous debt is like being in a deep hole that many may not escape. Rather than cancelling the debt outright, how about something analogous to chapter 13 bankruptcy where they are responsible for paying something for a period of time? It would still be costly but, less so.


Letters to the editor can also be sent to edletter@coxinc.com. Include a daytime phone number, your full name and the city in which you reside.

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