We discussed eldercare & aging issues—including caregiving challenges, coping, grieving, and resources related to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as civic activism and Engaged Buddhism.
Aging & Elder Care
We discussed the increased complexities of grieving for friends and acquaintances who died of Covid-19—including a participant’s friend who was in her 50s and got infected in spite of being very careful. Another participant attended the funerals of a friend’s parents, who died of Covid-19 within hours of each other. A third participant said that a friend got the virus but also didn’t know how she acquired it.
A participant, whose job requires him to visit persons living in dementia care residences, described how difficult it is for these residents to maintain social distance and wear face masks. They frequently forget why they are asked to wear a mask and pull them off, thereby posing increased risks to care partners and staff. He said he was unfortunately exposed to such a resident who developed uncommon symptoms of Covid-19 and later tested positive as did other residents and at least one staff member. This required our member to quarantine at home for two weeks in spite of testing negative himself. He also told of the exceptional challenges and delays of getting his test and its results.
Due to staff shortages at many assisted living and long-term care residences as well as shortages of Covid-19 testing capacity and long delays in test processing, we discussed the recent news reports of staff being asked to remain on the job even after being exposed to others who test positive.
A health professional participant, who has counseled many affected by the pandemic, described some poignant personal experiences with its physical, mental and social effects on friends, clients and co-workers. She said she had friends who caught the coronavirus while caring for their parents–only to have their parents die from Covid-19. She added that she was comforted by reading a recent article in The Atlantic magazine:
The Plan That Could Give Us Our Lives Back. By Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal. August 14, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/08/how-to-test-every-american-for-covid-19-every-day/615217/
We briefly discussed the challenges of settling a parent’s estate during the pandemic—especially the increased amount of administrative “red tape” and delays due to the workplace disruptions. This was seen as a good opportunity to practice patience—one of the six Buddhist paramitas (perfections).
Another participant said she was doing well and described her efforts to support a loved one in HUD Housing—including the search for personal protective equipment (PPE).
We discussed how we could help the growing numbers of people in need who have no money for food and rent and are being evicted. One member suggested making and carrying wallet cards with contact info for local food and housing resources. Such a card could then be given to persons in need whom several of us have recently encountered on the street.
Several local community outreach projects that offer increased pandemic-related support for persons in need were also described by participants, including…
– Community Assistance Center https://www.ourcac.org/
CAC helps residents of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody facing emergency situations meet the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. CAC assists individuals and families experiencing unexpected financial crisis from situations such as a job loss or other reduction of income, illness, medical emergency, divorce or catastrophic situations such as fire or flood. See also: Community Partners Grant More than $1M for COVID Relief https://www.ourcac.org/2020/08/01/grants/ .
– Toco Hills Alliance https://tocohillsalliance.org/
Toco Hills Community Alliance was founded in 1998 by the community of faith as a non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance to our neighbors. The organization became a qualified 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and has expanded its service area in the northeast Atlanta area. We currently serve a 9 ZIP code area providing emergency food supplies…. and support for individuals and families living in our service area (DeKalb County for food; 9 zip code area: 30030, 30032, 30033, 30319, 30324, 30329, 30340, 30341, 30345)–including those experiencing homelessness or veterans who are without sufficient food for themselves or their families.
– Decatur-area Emergency Assistance Ministry (DEAM) https://www.deamdecatur.org/
Decatur-area Emergency Assistance Ministry (DEAM), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, provides emergency help for local residents to prevent homelessness and hunger. Supported by more than 20 Decatur and Avondale area churches of many denominations, DEAM provides emergency food, financial aid for utilities and prescriptions, clothing and volunteer support to qualifying residents in the Decatur and Avondale area—including those living in 30030, 30002, 30079 and parts of a few other adjacent zip codes.
– Atlanta Community Food Bank https://www.acfb.org/
The Food Bank utilizes more than 1,700 volunteers a month, over 150 staff members, a large fleet of trucks and a 129,000 square-foot facility to procure and distribute food and grocery items received from hundreds of donors. Our donors include manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, brokers, restaurants, food drives, gardens and individuals. The product is easily accessed by our partner agencies. They place their orders online and arrange for pick up or delivery. Once the food arrives at the agency, it is provided to families and individuals in need.
…Every year, we work with more than 600 nonprofit partners—including food pantries, community kitchens, childcare centers, night shelters and senior centers—to distribute over 60 million meals to more than 755,000 people in 29 counties across metro Atlanta and north Georgia.
– Gwinnett Cares https://www.cfneg.org/gwinnettcares/
Gwinnett Cares is an online grassroots effort by a group of community stakeholders–including government, businesses, non-profits, schools and churches—to improve communication about the greatest needs in Gwinnett County as well as how to get help and how to help during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another participant reported that she was scheduled for hip surgery next month, but fortunately has a spouse and sister who can help with her recovery. She promised to let us know if additional help is needed.
A retired participant said she was coping well during the pandemic by getting out to exercise and walk in the woods early in the morning. She said that she once saw a crane-fly orchid blooming in the woods in the morning sun, but on her next visit could not see it when the sun was not illuminating it. It made her realize that there are many positive things that happen outside our awareness, because we cannot see them.
Another participant described a happy event that occurred in spite of the pandemic—the birth of a grandson!
A Buddhist practitioner reported that “Siddharta’s Intent” (bodhichitta) helped her cope with pandemic stress. This involves saying Buddha mantras. e.g., Om Muni Muni Mahamuni Sva Ha, to contribute to the worldwide accumulation of virtue and merit. Their recorded mantras are available in many different languages via the India group’s website. Siddhartha’s Intent is an international collective of Buddhist groups that began in Australia in 1986…that seeks to increase the awareness of Buddhist principles, surpassing the limits of cultures and traditions through teachings and seminars. https://siddharthasintent.in/bhumisparsha/
The live video and recordings of DLM Geshe-las are another valuable resource for those who are struggling to cope with effects of this pandemic, personal loss or other challenging social concerns. For example, at this past Tuesday Night Talk (Sep 15th) Geshe-la Lobsang Tenzin spoke on the “Buddhist Approach to Resolving Conflicts and Social Injustice” along with some healing chants by several visiting Drepung Loseling Monks.
These sessions are available via the DLM LiveStream Channel. See…
DLM Calendar http://drepung.org/changing/calendar/Current.htm
DLM Livestream Channel http://new.livestream.com/accounts/7116288
Buddhist Civic Engagement – Near the end of our discussion a participant said that she was feeling distressed about the toxic state of politics as we approach the November 3rd elections. This sentiment was echoed by several others and was followed by discussion of the causes of our political polarization and what we could do to improve the situation. Supporting voting rights and working to eliminate gerrymandering were among the non-partisan strategies.
For those who had a partisan preference and wanted to help their candidates get elected, we discussed whether there was an approach compatible with core Buddhist beliefs. Although we agreed that politics can easily lead to negative thoughts, speech and actions, it was noted that a group of secular Buddhist writers have described how these dangers could be avoided with proper understating and motivation through what has been called “Engaged Buddhism”.
Per WikiPedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engaged_Buddhism Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice. Finding its roots in Vietnam through the Zen Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh, Engaged Buddhism has grown in popularity in the West.
…Thich Nhat Hanh outlined fourteen precepts of engaged Buddhism, which explained his philosophy.
The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism. Lion’s Roar; April 12, 2017. https://www.lionsroar.com/the-fourteen-precepts-of-engaged-buddhism/
“…Beside Hanh’s efforts, the current Dalai Lama has voiced a need for Buddhists to be more involved in the socio-political realm:
In 1998, while on retreat in Bodh Gaya, India, […] the Dalai Lama told those of us who were participating in a Buddhist-Christian dialogue that sometimes, Buddhists have not acted vigorously to address social and political problems. He told our group, “In this, we have much to learn from the Christians.” (Jonas, Robert A. “Engaged Buddhism”. Empty Bell;(2006). http://www.emptybell.org/articles/engaged-buddhism.html)
Prominent figures in the movement include Robert Aitken Roshi, Joanna Macy, Gary Snyder, Alan Senauke, Sulak Sivaraksa, Daisaku Ikeda, Maha Ghosananda, Sylvia Wetzel, Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Taigen Dan Leighton, Ken Jones, Jan Willis, Bhante Sujato and Bhikkhu Bodhi.”
We are fortunate that Jan Willis, PhD, an author, teacher and self-described Baptist-Buddhist, is a Visiting Professor of Religion at Agnes Scott College in Decatur and has published books and given talks at various Tibetan Buddhist Centers that include aspects of Engaged Buddhism https://www.janwillis.org/biography/ . (See also her several YouTube videos.)
o Janice Dean Willis. Dreaming Me: From Baptist to Buddhist, One Woman’s Spiritual Journey, Wisdom Publications, 2008. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/808344510
o Janice Dean Willis. Dharma Matters : Women, Race, and Tantra : Collected Essays. Wisdom Publications, 2020. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1123180429
AtlantaBuddhism.org, started locally by Emory Hsu, is also an excellent source of wisdom from a variety of Buddhist traditions on Engaged Buddhism as well as on coping with the pandemic. See https://georgiameditation.org/. For example, its home page currently has a poignant photo of The Dalai Lama and the late Congressman John Lewis along with HHDL’s July 19, 2020 tribute to Lewis on his recent passing. It begins with this quote…
Tribute to John Lewis from His Holiness the Dalai Lama
I am saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman John Lewis. He was not only a leader of the American civil rights movement; his principled commitment to non-violence and justice made him an inspiration and a moral beacon to the world at large….
Covid-19 Testing & Prevention Resources – For current information & recommendations see:
– Atlanta Journal Constitution Coronavirus page https://www.ajc.com/news/coronavirus/
– DeKalb County Health Department COVID-19 page https://www.dekalbhealth.net/covid-19
– Georgia Department of Public Health
Coronavirus (COVID-19) https://dph.georgia.gov/health-topics/coronavirus-covid-19
COVID-19 Testing in Georgia https://dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting
– Emory University COVID-19 https://www.emory.edu/coronavirus/
COVID -19 Updates – Public http://www.emory.edu/coronavirus/public/index.html
YouTube Channel – COVID-19 Videos https://www.youtube.com/EmoryUniversity
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
– Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)Network (https://jamanetwork.com/)
JAMA Network (COVID-19 Updates) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4p6bEngiRCN7TyTxZVJ3OQ
– COVID Exit Strategy https://www.covidexitstrategy.org
– Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus page https://hub.jhu.edu/novel-coronavirus-information/
On Wednesday, September 2nd Gwinnett Cares held an online healthcare summit designed to help the Gwinnett community better navigate through COVID-19. It was designed to help Gwinnettians get fact-based information to dispel the many myths about what best practices are and clarify what everyone needed to do to help minimize the impact of COVID-19 on daily lives. A video recording of the meeting and many links to other pandemic resources are available via their website https://www.cfneg.org/gwinnettcares/.
We also discussed the sometimes conflicting coronavirus prevention and testing guidance coming from different parts of the federal government. This recent article provides some insights…
CDC Testing Guidance Was Published Against Scientists’ Objections. A controversial guideline saying people without Covid-19 symptoms didn’t need to get tested for the virus came from HHS officials and skipped the CDC’s scientific review process. Apoorva Mandavilli, New York Times – September 17, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/17/health/coronavirus-testing-cdc.html