Mercè Boada, leader of the MOPEAD project, shares her experiences of COVID-19 lockdown

During the lockdown, I am distancing myself socially whilst continuing my work for Fundació ACE. I would like to write to you all about the latest news in the Catalan health system and how it is affecting the Spanish population in this exceptional and unforeseeable crisis, which will lead to a shift in our history.

At a personal level, my family always says that I am a bit of a storyteller, and so I would like to share some stories with you all. Today is a grey day in Barcelona, it is raining, and the temperature is lower than last week. Perhaps it is snowing in the Pyrenees and in the surrounding areas, according to the forecast. In a way, the weather makes it easier for us to handle the lockdown.

The nationwide State of Emergency means that we will be confined at home until 12 April. Only essential services like supermarkets, food shops and pharmacies remain open.  Public transport can only be accessed by those of us who need to get to work (using the authorization that allows them to go to work), and people who produce supplies for the public health system. The Spanish Government announced yesterday that all manufacturing companies had to halt production, except for those making products for our essential services. Our economy is suffering.

We are at the top of the curve. We are running low, the lowest, and the nursing home services are really struggling to care for elderly patients and healthcare workers with COVID-19. The situation is overwhelming. We need more staff and extra protective equipment to try to keep the virus at bay.

Here at Fundació ACE, like other Institutions that are working with people with dementia, we have double the workload. We need to help combat the current health crisis, whilst also supporting people with dementia, their families and caregivers. Therefore, we are using telemedicine to perform follow-up on our patients and research participants and luckily, we are getting a good response. Supported by their younger family members, our patients are able to use our telemedicine services to attend consultations and obtain information about their care. Our team of social workers provides emotional support and helps people complete the paperwork required to obtain support from the local authorities (meals, carers etc). Our network of volunteers gets larger every day, and we really value their empathy and support. We are able to say that we have a strong “Friendly Neighborhood” program.

We are also experiencing ethical challenges related to the continuation of our clinical trials, which have been suspended. This was a very difficult decision to make, but we had to consider that our participant population is vulnerable and at high risk of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Neuropsychological and functional tests can be time-consuming, exposing participants and their families to close contact with our staff. The latter makes us feel uneasy because we are responsible for their safety. So far, we have suspended our activities and have established the logistics for new possible scenarios in the short and long term.

In times like this, I always remember a poem written by Elizabeth Bishop, entitled “One Art”:

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things

seem filled with the intent to be lost

that their loss is no disaster.

And, vaster, some realms I owned,

two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love)

I shan’t have lied.

It’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster

For now, social distancing is manageable; it is our duty to isolate ourselves to ensure the safety of our communities, and fortunately we still have resources that enable us to communicate. However, we still miss and need each other’s company. I miss the closeness and the warmth of being together. This is when we realize that we are human beings.

I hope I can meet you all again as soon as possible.