The year 2020 has been filled with surprises, if not bewilderment, for us all. It is unlikely that any of us could have predicted a year ago — or six months ago, or even three months ago — what our world would be like today. COVID-19 has truly turned the planet on its ear. My previous watershed event for before and after used to be the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I measured my thoughts by what life had been like before 9/11 versus afterward. My frame of reference has now changed to what the world was like “pre-COVID-19” and will be measured by “since COVID-19” in the future.
Just today I was trying to remember the last time I stood in line at my favorite Greek restaurant, went for a haircut, was able to fly to Florida to visit my grandchildren — or even bought toilet paper freely. These things are small in comparison to the risks everyone on the front lines of the coronavirus battle faces, but they have become significant measures in my world today. It seems a lifetime ago that I did such things unencumbered. My epiphany from this is how everything we regard as so constant and consistent is quite fragile. In December, the worry was whether the presents for your loved ones would arrive in time for Christmas. Now it is whether we all will be alive for next Christmas in this age of COVID-19.
How to survive, if not thrive, in the current environment has been taught to me by those I admire the most: AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine itself, and you — the membership. The answer is to be nimble. Let me provide examples. I have watched the Society’s membership in 2020 recognize the threat of COVID-19 to the vulnerable residents in our facilities and move into attack mode. You pivoted to meet the threat of a disease never encountered before. Without proven treatments, vaccines, adequate testing, or sufficient personal protective equipment, you nimbly changed into some of the most informed clinicians in the country in treating this coronavirus scourge. You have worked tirelessly to keep staff and residents protected. In your medical director role, you have helped skilled nursing facilities to be nimble themselves and revise their processes to battle COVID-19.
The responsiveness of the Society’s staff to the demands induced by the pandemic was as stunningly impressive to observe as it was instructive. Our Society staff, under the able leadership of Executive Director Chris Laxton, in the space of some six weeks turned a live Chicago conference into a nationwide virtual extravaganza. If only I had been able to see my old Society friends, I would have pronounced it the best Annual Conference I have participated in over 25 years. The staff even put together several educational sessions on the subject, including an awesome Friday morning panel discussion.
The Society began sending out a daily email on COVID-19 and created a resource page on its website; check it out at https://paltc.org/COVID-19
. Additionally, the Foundation for PALTC Medicine created a page for caretakers on its website (https://bit.ly/2KUCrX6
) on short notice. The Society’s staff also immediately began to work with state, federal, and local authorities on nursing home education and public policy to get our needs recognized and incorporated. Nimble indeed!
Your Foundation salutes each of you, your facilities, and your courageous staffs, along with Chris Laxton and the amazing Society staff. Your selfless shifting in response to the threat and changes posed by COVID-19 has been remarkable. If nimbleness were an Olympic sport, you each would be gold medal winners.
Your Foundation will respond in the same spirit to meet your needs in the best ways possible. We have committed all funds raised at the Wall of Caring to benefit the work that the Society continues to provide on COVID-19 to help our most vulnerable population. Your Foundation also will support the continued growth of the Futures program, acknowledge and award excellence in Society members and SNFs, and sponsor speakers for the Annual Conference.
We need your continued support to sustain our efforts on your behalf. I know that the pandemic has affected us all professionally and financially. Despite this, I ask you to support our initiatives in any possible way in 2020 and beyond.
Dr. Lett has practiced in the PALTC continuum for more than three decades as a hands-on clinician and medical director. He has served AMDA in multiple capacities including as president, on multiple committees, and is the current chair of the Foundation for PALTC Medicine.