Pages

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Self-Isolation: Introverts, Extroverts, and My Mother

I think introverts may fare better in this current health crisis than those who love their social outings -- not in terms of our health outcomes but in terms of our ability to weather staying at home.

Like so many introverts, I am not bored by being at home. My husband and I are both introverts and can occupy ourselves at home without any problem.

There's a difference between boredom and isolation, though. We are not alone; we have each other for company when we are not working. And we have two cats. Anyone with pets knows how much they can help to ward off loneliness.

But I do feel for folks who need the energy of social contact with the larger community, especially those who live by themselves and do not have pets. Isolation poses a bigger challenge for them.

My ninety-year-old mother is one of those. She still goes out daily to have coffee at a busy McDonalds. If her usual group is not there, she will talk to anyone. She also goes to the grocery store almost every day. It gives her something to do, gives her a bit of exercise, and keeps her feeling in touch with the world, especially now that she is unable to enjoy reading or other "brain" activities due to mental decline. She has a telephone, but has never been interested in computers and doesn't have one.

It has been very frustrating trying to convince her that she needs to limit her daily trips out and about. She declares she has too few years left and will not spend them stuck at home, even if it's just a temporary situation.

I don't know how much of this is her longstanding approach to life ("no one is going to be the boss of me") and how much of it is due to her decline in cognition. Even appealing to her to think of the situation she would be putting me in if she became sick has no effect on her. (I'm her contact person for medical situations, and I'm in a higher risk group as well due to age and asthma.)

This is causing a tug-of-war between us that seems insolvable. I understand her need for socialization. And I respect her choice of a shorter but rewarding life versus a longer but lonely life ...

... except when she is putting others at risk by making that choice. It's not just me and my family who might be affected -- it's everyone she comes in contact with.

I have run out of things to try. If you have suggestions they would be very welcome.

Update: I wrote this yesterday. By today, Mom's McDonalds had posted signs that there is no in-house seating permitted. One problem solved, sort of. The grocery stores are still open, though!




I feel a bit like this cat


I hope everyone is being careful and staying healthy. There was a thought-provoking sentiment on social media yesterday:

          In the war, we were asked to go and fight for our country. Now we are
         being asked to stay home on the couch for our country.

Sounds like it should be simple, doesn't it, comparatively speaking. And yet for some (maybe many) folks it will be hard to do.




42 comments:

messymimi said...

Staying home is easy for me, i wish i could retire and do it full time. It's my Sweetie. He thrives on being out and about, so when he can't be, and i am not at work, he is right up in everything i am doing. If we were both retired and at home together all of the time, there might have to be drastic measures taken.

jenny_o said...

Retirement is a game-changer for a lot of couples and requires a lot of adjustment. So is self-isolation during this health crisis, and it's even worse in that people can't get out at all to help ease the adjustment.
Take care, Mimi.

Elephant's Child said...

Like you, I am happy to stay at home, and have MORE than enough to keep me occupied here.
I do mourn for the extroverts though, and in particular for those who live alone. I suspect upwards of ninety per cent of the calls which come to our crisis line have loneliness as the root cause.
I wish I had some suggestion which would help to keep you and your mother safe (and on speaking terms). Holding you firmly in my heart.

jenny_o said...

Thanking you for the good thoughts, EC. That's very interesting what you have observed about the root cause of many problems. Who would think that under ordinary circumstances a person would end up lonely if they wished otherwise? But it seems that many do.

River said...

I don't mind staying at home as much as I need to, I have my computer, books, dvd player and a cat, so I'll be okay. I worry about visiting elderly neighbours though. Should I or should I stay home and keep myself safe at all costs? I don't know if they've been out and about, maybe getting infected...

jenny_o said...

I've seen the suggestion that a phone call might be best to keep both parties safe but connected. I understand your concerns completely.

Martha said...

Like you and your husband, my husband and I are both introverts, so it's easy for us to find things to occupy us at home any time of the year. Plus, our two cats are good company. But it's much more difficult for introverts. My brother is one of them. I haven't spoken to him lately but this is probably a very difficult time for him. Still, he has his wife and he enjoys chatting it up on the phone. There's always a way around this. I don't have any good suggestions for your mom. I think it's somewhat of a losing battle. I totally understand her logic about having quality time for the years she has left. But we do worry about others being infected. Hopefully she stays safe and so does everyone else.

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Martha - I hope your mom is okay too, and that you and your family stay healthy as well.

Red said...

It's good that an introvert can think about the safety and comfort of others. some older people in decline can be very difficult as they become irrational. My wife likes to get out and visit. I could stay in and not be bored or lonely. I hope you get by this whole situation with some success rather than a crash.

kylie said...

If she gets sick, she will most likely be quarantined in hospital and no threat to anyone (though I recognise that she could be a risk before she got there)
And it's most likely everything will become so quiet there's no point going out.
I just don't think it's possible to get through to them at that age so you might as well make peace with it

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Red - you and your wife too. Yes, my mother is becoming quite hard to reason with.

jenny_o said...

Wise words, kylie. I would be the first one my mother would call; I'd be exposed to her before she ever got to the hospital - that's my worry. But you're right that I might as well not fret about it because I can't change it.

Bonnie said...

My husband and I do okay staying around the house but it's all the unknowns about this situation that get to me. Things change on a daily basis and it is hard to know what to expect next.

You said your Mom had friends she would meet at McDonalds. Maybe they could all organize a chain phone call thing where they took turns calling each other on the phone to visit. Chances are many others are just as lonely as she is now. It's not going out but it is contact.

jenny_o said...

Yes, good idea Bonnie - I will suggest that to her. Thank you.

Terra said...

I am an introvert who loves people so I am missing hanging out with my friends and family. Also, I am self isolating and as a widow, I must say, self isolating when living alone is completely different from self isolating when living with a spouse. How fun it would be to have someone around the house. I hope your mom stays healthy, it is not good for her to be out and about, and doctors and nurses are getting the virus while caring for patients.

jenny_o said...

Yes, you make an important point - you can be an introvert and still love friends and family and want to be around them. Being all alone has to be very hard. I hope you have Skype or Facetime, and/or telephone buddies. It's not as good as face to face contact but it's better than nothing.

dinthebeast said...

I don't have much difficulty spending time alone. Neither does Briana or the cat. Well, the cat wants to go outside a lot, but he can't because he keeps fighting with the neighbor's cat, who has been here for a long time.
Also, it's been snowing for three days, and he doesn't know what to do in the snow.
Neither do I, and all of these shelter in place policies are sort of moot when I have grave doubts about making it down the trail and stairs to the road, where the car is most likely behind a bank of snow made by the plow as it went past. If it went past. I haven't really checked...
Good luck with your mom. Briana had some similar issues with her mom. "If I can't live with my cousin, I'll go to Fort Bragg and live in my van." "No, Laura, it's not safe for you to live in your van, which doesn't run, and you can no longer drive."
Boy did that not go over well.
She seems content where she is now, though, and she has friends to talk about Jesus with, so I hope they are all OK as that is the very kind of place where this virus can be the worst.
So when I read that the whole Bay Area was on shelter in place, it made me feel as if we had gotten lucky with the timing of our move.
Now, tomorrow, to see if I can contact some of the folks I know who still live down there and see how they are doing.
That is, if the power stays on. When it went off for a while today, I found that my phone couldn't get any reception, as Zsuzs has a cellspot upstairs that allows us to get and make calls...

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Andrew said...

I can understand your mother's view and if her understanding of how what she is doing can threaten others is not what it should be, I understand even better. Just because she is your mother, you can still keep your distance, as we will do when we see my mother tomorrow after a couple of weeks of absence because of our holiday.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

I love staying at home with my family as well. It is relaxing and anti-stressful to me. My only worries are the virus, as some of us are in risk groups as well, and my mother not living nearby. Telephone could be the solution, even if it's NOT the same as face to face - contact.

baili said...

i can completely relate to your situation dear Jenny
it reminds me of days when in his last year of life my father came to stay with me and we were so worried about his out going routines ,he basically belonged to here though but he was not in his awakened senses when he came here

only Lord knows that how hard for me to stop form going out and specially from eating stuff from outside which would often made him sick ,here i could not go after him to search or to stop i had to wait for husband or son to do so

i am worried about you that how tough it is for you and then for your mother who has lost her contact with friend and feeling of being free and independent
right now i cannot think of anything as you said she don't sit before computer so can play are stroll
she needs freedom and friend ,you can give her company but freedom is dream to the whole world right now :(

wishing you safe healthy happy and peaceful days my dear friend! hugs! and yes STAY STRONG AND PATIENT !

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Sorry. I have no suggestions for taming your mother. You know her better than anybody else. In one of our big supermarkets they have earmarked a special time for over-seventies to shop with exclusive use 9am to 11am on a Thursday. Something like that might help.

jenny_o said...

I take it Briana's mom is in assisted living of some kind now. It's good that she is content there. I hope they are all okay. As you say, the risks can be higher there.

It's hard to keep cats indoors when they've been able to go out. Ours aren't used to being out but another side effect of being in is weight gain. Ours are both supposed to be on a restricted diet, and I'm trying, but it seems all I'm doing at the moment is keeping them at the same weight, not reducing. Neither one has any interest in playing (exercising). I need to check the internet for more ideas to try that will entice them to move more.

I hope your power stays on! and I was thinking about your timely move when I heard about the restrictions there. Stay safe, Doug & Co.

jenny_o said...

Yes, I hadn't thought about keeping my distance if or when I visit her, but I will need to keep that in mind, especially since she won't. Are you still permitted to be out and about after travel? Folks here are not; they must self-isolate for 14 days from return.

jenny_o said...

Yes, telephones are going to have to do for now, for a lot of folks. Thank goodness for those! I'm glad to hear that you enjoy the extra time at home. When our kids were young, I used to look forward to school breaks and vacations, far more so than a lot of other moms did.

jenny_o said...

That must have been so difficult with your father, especially under the restrictions of your country for women going out. It made a hard situation even harder for you.

I am hesitant to visit my mother when she has been out and about; I am worried about picking up germs from her. But if she will stay home I feel more comfortable visiting her. It's her choice ... although is it really her choice if her mind is not working well? That is the hard decision for me.

Best wishes to you and your family for good health in these times, baili :) Hugs.

jenny_o said...

Special shopping time is being put in place here by one of the groceries (not the one where my mother goes, but maybe they will too) and I'll make sure she knows about that. There are some very thoughtful reactions by businesses right now; it surprises me somewhat but I am glad to see it. "Taming my mother" - yes, that's what it feels like I'm trying to do, with very little success :)

Marie Smith said...

It will be torture for many I fear, Jenny. Take care.

jenny_o said...

You and all your family as well, Marie.

LL Cool Joe said...

Tell your mom that if she wants to go out and about and see people that's great, but you won't be able to see her as she could put you at risk.

Andrew said...

Because it was still in Australia, no need to isolate and very few cases in Tasmania.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I am a closet introvert, but an extrovert on the outside. I am shy but push through it because I want friends and enjoy being with people. It was never easy when I was young, but got easier through the years. I am like my mom and your mom also.

I don’t know what to tell you, Jenny. Your mom should not be out and about now, but you have few options. You have to keep healthy for your husband and family and must put them as a priority. Keep in touch with her by phone and hope for the best. Easier said than done.

Anonymous said...

Hi it’s me Chicken. I’m on my iPad and can’t leave chicken comments. Or I can, but not as Chicken....never mind. Anyways, I think this is trending. The kids are fighting with their parents about going out -oh the irony. I wish I could help you with this but I don’t think I’d be any more successful. My stepmom is an introvert also, so we haven’t had that issue.

jenny_o said...

What I most worry about (selfishly, I know) is that she will get ill, because I am the person she calls for help. There is no one else except a direct call to 911. I will have to decide whether to be with her or not. That's a hard choice. Until then, I am doing as you suggested. Seems fair to me!

jenny_o said...

You're right and that's what I've done so far. I just don't know what I'll do if she gets sick and calls me for help. I guess I have the option of calling 911 for her. I would feel like a terrible person, but - this has just occurred to me - maybe it's preferable to call paramedics who will know how to protect themselves, rather than risk exposing myself (and then my husband) to infection and add to the problem for the health care system. I'm going to think about this further.

I wish my mom had embraced technology like you have, Arleen - we could Facetime and it would be a big help.

jenny_o said...

Hi Chicken! Trending, really? I'm going to have to go look at this! It is ironic, isn't it? I've thought about that the last week or so. My mother is resisting me "dictating" to her just like a kid would. (Although I didn't dream of resisting her when I was growing up because she has a very strong personality and I didn't like confrontation.)

Are you still working or has your job been shut down or changed?

Stay safe, Chickie.

jenny_o said...

Oh, I understand now.

Diane Henders said...

I'm so sorry that you have to go through this - what a terrible choice to have to make if your mother gets sick. Here's hoping she's stay well and you won't have to decide.

In the meantime, as hard as it is, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Even if your mother's mental state doesn't allow her to grasp the consequences of her actions, at least everyone around her is aware of the seriousness of the situation. Hopefully that will provide a bit of protection both for them and for her.

Stay well!

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Diane - yes, I just hope mom stays well. A lot of things are closed here now so that's a help.

Janie Junebug said...

I'm an introvert who's happier at home. We enjoy seeing other folks and dogs from the neighborhood when we walk to the park, but we don't want to hang out with them.

Love,
Janie

Chickens Consigliere said...

HI Jenny, I was laid off Monday. I may potentially have time to do a blog post or two now! I don't know how long it will last-I'm thinking a month, maybe a couple. Hopefully, not too long. Or forever. lol. I'm happy to be home where it's safe, to be honest, at least I think it is. On the other hand, I'm feeling the call to help out in some way also, as many brave people are.

jenny_o said...

I hope you do get a chance to write some more for your blog, Chicken. So many folks have been laid off; I hear you - it's not good to be off work and yet at the same time it is.

jenny_o said...

Yep, I'm not a hanger-outer either :)