One year later, this senior and her family find ways to cope with loneliness, companionship during pandemic

Brianna Childers
Topeka Capital-Journal

In 2020, Beth Core, 88, received an unlikely early Christmas present when her family surprised her with an in-home caregiver.

Apprehensive at first as to whether she truly needed the help, Core — who lives in Lawrence — has embraced the assistance and social aspect of having someone visit her on a regular basis. 

Socializing and finding avenues to get out of the house while being safe and cognizant of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has proved difficult for many, but seniors in particular. Now that Core has a caregiver, her family can rest easy that their mother is safe and has an outlet to cope with loneliness. 

Beth Core, 88, says playing the piano, if only for herself rather than the church congregations she used to play for, has helped her cope during the pandemic.

When Core's family first told her she was getting a caregiver, she asked herself, "Do I really need help or not?" The short answer was yes. 

"In particular I have trouble with my shoulders and I had already arranged for a shoulder shot again, and now I've canceled that because I'm not doing the heavier housework."

But it isn't just the assistance with the housework for which Core is thankful. 

"We have companionship, we talk about things, she'll go on errands with me ... " Core said. "So this is having another person come in, in addition to family. They are the only ones that I get to see, of course."

With how independent her mom is, Barbara VanCortlandt, Core's daughter, knew her mother didn't need to go to a senior living facility, where she would receive around-the-clock care. At the same time, VanCortlandt knows her mom's persistence to take on chores that she shouldn't. 

Barbara VanCortlandt, right, holds her mother, Beth Core, left, outside of Core's home.

"She will, on the day that she wants to clean house, she will do everything, and then she will spend a few days regretting it because she will be really worn out," VanCortlandt said. "There are certain things like vacuuming that don't feel good anymore. It just seemed like a good idea to not only help her with housekeeping, but also just some socialization, because of course with 2020, we were afraid to get together for a long time and then had to find ways that we could do that safely."

For Core, she remains set on doing as much around the house as she can. 

"I can still climb," Core said. "I'm not to get on ladders, of course, but what the family doesn't know won't hurt them for a two-step ladder." 

Core's caregiver visits her about every two weeks and family about every three weeks, she said. 

"I seldom see the family, but we keep in touch with other means of communication, of course," Core said. 

More:COVID-19 health orders in Shawnee County turned to recommendations, masks still required for now

Coping with loneliness amid the coronavirus pandemic

Core said in dealing with the feelings of loneliness, it has been difficult, but she finds ways to cope. 

"So in summertime or springtime, you can walk around and someone's going to be on the porch, you stop and talk to them with your mask on and their mask on," Core said.  "Even before that time, though, we would get closer and visit and admire their flowers"

"I think loneliness is the main thing. We aren't out now with the pandemic and I would like to be out all the time. I want my family to come over all the time and pick me up and take me for a ride this afternoon or this morning ... But I am in much better shape than the others. I like reading, I have a nice television set and I have a pet. I have managed to cope that way, but as always, my family could come over and see me if I really were in need."

Barbara VanCortlandt, left, talks with her mother, Beth Core, right, inside of Core's home. Since November 2020, Core has had a caregiver that visits her multiple times during the month to help with chores and offer companionship.

VanCortlandt said her mother having a caregiver gives her peace of mind. 

"I'm glad for the weeks that she has someone coming in," VanCortlandt said. "I am not good about coming over and helping her do chores. When we started in 2020, we didn't get together at all when we didn't know if our groceries were bringing (the virus) in, we just didn't know what we needed to do or not."

"Then when things opened up a little bit, we started wearing our masks, having our windows cracked and just driving around in the car just to go look at some places outside of town, just to get out of the house. It's a lot nicer to spend your time doing that and doing some fun things together than just being closed in the same walls all the time."