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‘Tis the Season to for Planning, Preparedness and Peace…

I love the holidays and take great care to plan and prepare for them. I plan my meal and my guests weeks in advance. I review the Christmas decorations to see if they are all in working order and if I need to update any of them. I clean the house thoroughly to prepare for guests who might drop by. I prepare a feast fit for the kings, queens in my life. I deck the house out in fall and Christmas attire.

This year for me, like most of you, has been a little different and difficult. The COVID-19 virus has hit our community especially hard and has exposed what we long knew to be true. The systemic bias in healthcare leads to poor health outcomes for communities of color.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said in June that Black people are more likely to be adversely affected by COVID-19.

“African Americans have suffered disproportionately from coronavirus disease,” Fauci said on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ podcast Learning Curve. “They’ve suffered in that their rate of infection is higher because of the nature of the economic status that many of them find themselves in when they’re outside working, being unable to physically separate.”

Fauci added that a high incidence of underlying symptoms within the African American community put those individuals “at much greater risk of suffering the deleterious consequences, including death.”
There are times when I am simply overwhelmed with the lasting effects of racism on our communities and our very bodies.

The fact that we have had to not spend time with friends and family in order to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe, has been also been emotionally taxing. The truth is the economic toll of the virus has added extra pressure during the holidays, which are already hard for some of us.

While there are promising vaccines, the reality is they will not be available to the masses until next spring. Until then we must remain vigilant and continue to plan and prepare our community to deal with the virus at hand. In addition to staying home, wearing a mask we must make plans for ourselves and our loved ones in case we are no longer able to make decisions for ourselves. How do we want to be cared for, who should be notified, Who will speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself?

There are things we can do Plan and Prepare.

Plan

Clearly, we must hold the medical community accountable for their lack of cultural competence and health equity.

We must advocate that those in power enact laws that address healthcare disparities and if they don’t replace them with those who will. What else can we do?

Prepare

We can as a community commit to educating ourselves on the issues, thereby Empowering us to be our own best advocates. We can better prepare ourselves and families for situations beyond our control. Make sure we have wills, living wills, life and health insurance state documents properly filled out and recorded. Fill out an Advanced Health Care Directive- each has their own variation but this document allows one to determine what their wants and needs are if they are unable to make their own healthcare decisions ( If I’m in a coma or have dementia) . It also allows them to share with family and friends and appoint a healthcare proxy to speak for them.

We also must ask for second and third opinions if necessary. We must prioritize the patients wishes and we must have these necessary conversations in advance as much as possible. The time to have these needed conversations are not in the emergency room when no one is in the right mind to make decisions. The time to have these conversations are when you are in reasonable health in a non-crisis situation where people can have dialogue and ask questions in the hope that they will all be on the same page about their loved ones priorities at the end.

And although most of us will probably be gathering with relatives on Zoom instead of face to face the gathering of dear ones provides a good environment to talk to the ones we love about what we want at the end. ‘Tis the season to provide the gifts of peace and preparation.

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