How Grieving COVID-19 is Similar to Taking Care of a Parent with Dementia
By: Thomas N. Ruggieri, LCSW-C Faculty Staff Assistance Program
Since early April I have provided 30+ Zoom presentations to thousands of faculty and staff. My focus has been on how most of us have been reacting emotionally to this pandemic, including experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. Given the severity and unpredictability of the COVID -19 pandemic, another prevailing emotion experienced by many has been grief. Whether it be specific, for the loss of a family member, friend or colleague, or general, as we all grieve the loss of the illusion of stability and security that helped center our lives, this is no ordinary grief experience. Most of our losses in life occur over a defined period of time. We feel the sudden pain and sadness of the loss but ultimately move on with our routines. Because there is no clear ending to this pandemic and only the anticipation of more uncertainty, our grieving becomes an ongoing process where the only thing known is the unpredictability of our futures.
Grieving during COVID-19 strikes me as a very similar process to the grief experienced while being a caretaker for a parent or loved one with dementia. Dementia has been identified as one of the costliest medical illnesses because patients live a long time after the initial diagnosis but still need constant care. My mom lived for ten years after her initial diagnosis. It was hard to see the mother that I once knew slowly slip away. I found myself grieving incrementally throughout this process. Some aspects of our relationship were still there while others were notably and painfully disappearing, with the inevitable reality that they would never come back again becoming part of my daily awareness.
Whether we are grieving the loss of a loved one or simply the loss of our safety and security, grief around losses from COVID-19 are eerily similar. It involves a set of emotions that most people are surprised by. But the stages of grief are all there: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance and ultimately, developing a sense of meaning for what we are experiencing. Most of us dance in and out of these stages, sometimes all in the same day. When our loss is a friend or family member to COVID, our grief is immediate and palpable. For those of us who have not yet experienced this, we know it may be coming and reality inevitability produces its own anticipatory anxiety. Added to this already toxic mix is the institutional racism that has impacted the experience of the pandemic for many members of our community. There is also the reality that people are struggling with the multiple needs and stressors of children, parents, and finances, all while trying to focus on being productive at work.
As a caretaker for my Mom (fortunately - one of many – a quick thank you to my wonderful siblings), I quickly recognized and experienced the draining energy that such a task requires. It is so easy to put our needs aside, especially when we see that others needs are greater. This is often the beginning of the slide down the slippery slope into burnout. The uncertainty, unpredictability, loss and the feeling that “this” may never end that characterize the experience of caretakers of dementia patients mirrors what many of us are experiencing now. This is the reality of our COVID pandemic experience and to avoid the inevitable burnout, self-care needs to be a part of our daily routine. To the hundreds of our colleagues that have reached out to the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) during this time, we congratulate you for taking that initial step of taking care of yourself. I have continually been inspired in our Zoom group conversations by colleague’s creative ways of filling up their energy tanks. It seems that many of our dogs are pleased and maybe a little surprised at how many walks they are getting each day. Gardening, painting, listening to music, reading, movies, cooking, connecting with neighbors. The list is endless. Please do not look at self-care as selfish. It is one of the essential things that allows us to build and maintain resiliency, no matter who we are taking care of.
Activity Insight: Expands to All Paid Faculty Members
By: Sharon Goodall, Office of Faculty Affairs
We are expanding use of Activity Insight by Digital Measures/Watermark as our faculty activities system for all paid faculty members, starting this fall. This system enables individual faculty members and the University as a whole to promote and report their accomplishments and activities. We initially launched this new tool over the 2019 calendar year with tenured/tenure-track faculty members, and they used it for annual reporting this past spring. In this next phase, all paid faculty members will use Activity Insight to report on their accomplishments and activities.
Returning users will notice several updates in the system. These updates were made in large part in response to faculty feedback from the annual reporting survey gathered this past spring, faculty provided comments during the initial implementation, and input from our advisory committee comprised of faculty and administrators. . Key changes to note include:
- Historical records of faculty participation in thesis/dissertation committees have been loaded into the system based on data from the Graduate School going back to 2013. (Note that Spring 2020 records have not been loaded as yet.)
- A bulk data import service is now available to import activity data from an Excel file in Activity Insight. For details about this service, please contact Activity Insight team. We will provide you with an Excel import template for the associated data screen. The columns of the template will correspond to the data fields on that screen. We will give you detailed information on the data format for each column and can load your data into Activity Insight for you.
Training on use of the platform will be offered in October and November this fall. Details will be available in the near future and are posted on the Activity Insight website.
Since Activity Insight is always available, you can get started documenting your 2020 activities in the platform now. Head to the Faculty Affairs Activity Insight website to log in. When you access the platform, you'll notice that some activities have already been loaded for you in the system. There are a number of campus integrations in place that automatically load data for you.
Activity Data From Other Sources
Activity Insight automatically brings in activity data from other sources, in particular other campus data management systems, so you do not have to enter it manually. Note that data populated from campus integrations cannot be edited on the data screen. The chart below explains where the data are drawn from, how often the update occurs, and how far back the data goes.
|Activity Screen Name||Campus System||Data Update Schedule||Data Coverage|
|Personal and Contact Information; Tenure and Rank;Appointments at UMD||PHR||Bi-weekly on Mondays||2010- present|
|Scheduled Teaching||SIS||Five weeks after the term ends||2010 academic year - present|
|Course Evaluations||Course EvalUM||Five weeks after the term ends||2014 academic year - present|
|ORA Managed Awards;ORA Managed Proposals||Kuali Research||February each year, with the previous calendar year's data||2010- present|
|Participation in Thesis / Dissertation Committees||Graduate School Student Advising||Five weeks after the term ends||2013-2019 academic year|
Learn More About Activity Insight
The Activity Insight website is not only your starting point for logging in to the platform; it is also a self-service resource with short how-to videos, extensive user guides, and contact information for the Activity Insight team. Platform support is available through email, and by phone (301.405.7681).