Before a series of unfortunate health events, Janice was living an active life. She volunteered at an art gallery and bookshop, frequently gathered with friends at neighborhood restaurants, and took college courses in health and wellness focusing on gerontology.
That all came to a halt when she got a diagnosis of a rare type of bone arthritis. She had to start using a walker and wheelchair, which she managed pretty well until she struck her head in a fall. She was in the hospital for a week before being transferred to a Montgomery, MD, nursing home for therapy.
To make matters even worse, this all happened in the middle of the pandemic.
After she came home, friends thought she was behaving strangely. She suffered from delirium for almost a week. When her temperature spiked to 107 F, it was time to call EMTs.
She was utterly incoherent when the ambulance arrived. Doctors diagnosed her with COVID-19, bilateral pneumonia, and she went into a coma for 33 days.
At one point, the hospital tried four times to get her to breathe on her own. Finally, they told her 81-year-old mother that they would have to break her ribs if this time wasn't successful, but Janice is a fighter, and the fifth time was the charm.
Waking up the next day, the first thing she said was:
"Well, Mom, I've had what seems to be a very long nap."
She'd never seen a smile as beautiful as her mother's that day.
She was finally able to come home in June, but she'd lost the ability to walk. She's been slowly moving from eating pureed foods to solid foods and has managed to scoot a bit though she's still trying to gain strength to be able to pivot into her wheelchair. Standing is a goal down the road.
Staying positive when confined to bed is hard. While Janice has four aids offering 56 hours of care a week, she still has a lot of alone time.
"All my aids are under 30 so they help to keep me young."
With limited mobility, Janice was calling hotlines to deal with loneliness, that is until she found GetSetUp listed in the Senior Beacon.
“I love learning and I’m in my bed about 24/7. I can catch a class any time of the day or night on GetSetUp.”
This convenience means a lot to Janice since she has to take off from her college studies to recover. She appreciates that GetSetUp has older adults teaching other older adults.
“Seniors are generally put down and overlooked. In GetSetUp classes I feel these are my peers. I like the camaraderie.”
Classes allow peers to share jokes on common interests like The Waltons, an American historical drama television series from the 70s about a family in Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. Or learn quirky hobbies and news like about the traveling toy stuffed bear that travels the globe.
Janice enjoys the security of the site, which strives to keep its members safe.
“This is the longest I’ve ever been on a site without being hacked or encountering hackers.”
Janice has found the health classes for older adults particularly helpful. These classes focus on common ailments and practical ways to manage these changes.
"The diabetes management and arthritis classes explained a lot that I didn't know before. I also went to a dementia class. It doesn't apply to me, but I want to get information about these topics as they are interesting especially as my stepfather had a stroke and we don't know what ailments loved ones might face."
Janice is taking three to five classes a day and sometimes more. She's already taken more than 200 courses and isn't planning to stop anytime soon.
"When I wake up in the morning I check to see what classes are running."
She's enjoying getting together with friends virtually and looks forward to meeting in person again soon. But, for now, she's just grateful to be alive. Each day comes with a new accomplishment.
"I took the 10 Seconds of Presence class. I didn't think I would be able to do her class because it's meditating and breathing, and I was on a breathing tube for so long. But I could do it! This class is really for everyone and she follows it up with a coffee and chats with her father. They make different coffee recipes. You just feel like you are in their home drinking coffee with them."
GetSetUp allows Janice to be a part of the Coffee Hour with Natalia in Australia from her bed in Maryland.
"GetSetUp is really breaking down the stereotype of what it means to be an old person. There are so many vibrant people on the platform. I recommend people check out some of the groups--you will learn interesting things in them!"
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