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    New vaccine, new hope for seniors

    For Miralda and Luigi, the waiting game is finally over. After 62 years of marriage—and 12 months locked down together at home—they’ll be among the first wave of the general public to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this month. Their relief, even over the phone line, is palpable.
    By Home Care Assistance - March 23, 2021

    Home Care Assistance Montreal is the only home care solution offering an innovative, science-based approach to aging. We elevate the standard of care for seniors everywhere. In “Care Diaries,” we feature heartfelt stories from Canadians telling their current life stories.

    We’re so relieved that we’re getting it,” says Miralda, 81. “We’re happy we don’t have to wait many more months.”

    Because she wasn’t born before 1936, Miralda wouldn’t originally have qualified for the first wave of shots were it not for her husband being five years older. As a caregiver over 70, she’s eligible to attend his appointment, and be vaccinated at the same time. 

    Her enthusiasm is tempered by an understandable dose of nerves. The eldest among us are the first Quebecers to experience these new vaccines. That said, they trust the science, and they’re ready. 

    “We usually don’t have reactions from vaccines,” adds Luigi, 86. “We trust that it will be okay. We are definitely relieved to be getting vaccinated.”

    That’s something seniors everywhere can relate to. Like many, Miralda and Luigi have been in a holding pattern since last March. Avid travellers with friends and family across Montreal and the world, the overnight switch to staying home dramatically changed their day to day. That loss of independence, and growing sense of isolation, has been difficult for seniors like them to manage. It’s not easy to nurture mental wellness under the circumstances. This dynamic duo was used to doing their own groceries, enjoying meals out, and spending time with friends. It’s those things they miss the most, and can’t wait to get back to.

    “We missed the interaction with other people, seeing our friends. That spur of the moment drive somewhere. The casino!” Miralda laughs. “Hopefully the day that they tell us we’re on the loose again, maybe we’ll be able to go to a restaurant, or see a friend.”

    For their relentless optimism, there are moments they know they can’t get back. For Luigi, that comes in the shape of a brother lost last November. He won’t get a new chance to say goodbye. Luigi is the eldest of a tight-knit Italian family that settled in Montreal after losing their home to bombings in the second world war. When his brother passed away in a Laval hospital last fall, COVID-19 prevented him and his four remaining siblings from visiting, or celebrating that life lived in person.

    “I wasn’t even able to go,” he says quietly. “I want to see my brothers, and my sister.”

    The hope of doing so soon makes their vaccine appointment feel like a golden ticket of sorts. They’re craving visits with a school-aged great-granddaughter, and two baby great-grandsons who lives nearby. For now, they connect through the safety of a glass living room window. They hope to get to Ontario and Alberta next, where three of their adult grandchildren now live with their families. 

    “We want to have a nice game of cards, and a bit of laughter, like we used to,” says Miralda. “We want to talk about the old times and have some new times together.”

    It’s unclear how soon those opportunities will come. Here in Quebec, public health guidelines encourage everyone to continue following the measures in place, even after being vaccinated.

    Building up immunity takes time, and can vary from person to person for a host of reasons, like age or chronic disease. It can take anywhere from 14 to 21 days for the vaccine to truly start kicking in. That means it’s essential for seniors to maintain physical distancing, wear a mask, and wash their hands frequently even as the vaccination program rolls out. 

    It’s not the time to let our guard down, and Miralda and Gino are realistic about that. They’ll continue to follow all public health measures and guidance in the weeks and months ahead. They’ve come this far, and they’ve no intention of giving up now.

    “Like I tell my friend Joe on the phone all the time: it could be worse,” says Luigi. “In fact, we’ve been through worse before.”

    Closing thoughts

    The most important thing seniors can do as the vaccination program rolls out is keep up with existing sanitary measures, and stick to public health guidelines. Always ask your doctor if you have questions about what’s safe for a vaccinated individual. Check out these links for credible, up-to-date guidance:

    Your local integrated health and social services centre (CISS)

    Quebec Public Health

    Canadian Public Health Agency

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