• Mary MacCarthy

L.A. house cleaner called on to tend to elderly, isolated clients

Updated: May 7, 2020

This is the third story sent to me by the Los Angeles-based house cleaner, Susan - documentig her experiences during the COVID19 crisis. In what she calls her “Diary from the Shadows,” Susan recounts receiving requests to take care of elderly individuals quarantining on their own.

HOW ARE YOU GETTING BY? Well, people are calling and private messaging me, PLEADING for me to help their older parents - who have been isolated from family, friends, and neighbors. The parents are all older people who can’t physically cope by themselves.

So what should I do? What choices do I have - on a humanitarian level? Do I ignore these messages, to protect myself and my own family from the virus? Or do I proceed, with protocols set in place?

Are people thinking about these consequences?

This is all new to me. I did expect the virus to create tough situations. But not to the extreme that I'm seeing.

It’s obvious that some elderly have been left to themselves. And there is no way that I’m the only house cleaner or member of “the help” who is getting calls.

I decided to go ahead and help one of my clients who is 80 years old. We talked on the phone first, and I discussed the precautions I would take. Normally, I clean for her just once a month. She can’t make her bed due to arthritis and old age. And she suffers from depression.

Her family - which is her life line - is all in New York, and here in Los Angeles I seem to be her only regular human contact.

We promised no hugs, just smiles. When I arrived she broke down in tears. She couldn’t lift the delivery boxes that had been stacked outside the gate.

My client, and her cat, hadn’t eaten for days. She was so stressed, but was grateful that I was there.

*Illustration by Catherine MacCarthy

She was afraid to touch the boxes of food that had been delivered, due to COVID-19. I had my fear, too, but I cautiously dragged them into the house. Some of the items were rotten because they’d been outside for over a week.

I took her trash out to the back alley, and even then I was fearful. Panicking because the dumpster towers above me. Don’t laugh, but I had to use my step stool and maneuver carefully so I didn't accidentally touch the dumpster. It’s a shame! To have to take so many steps to protect myself and my family.

I’m carrying on the best I can. When I was finished, she said Susan you are so wonderful, I’m so glad we met five years ago.

I say this with a heavy heart - no hugs were given. I feel bad because if the government decides to declare everything on major lockdown with soldiers in the street - how am I supposed to deal with that? One step at a time I guess. I’m lucky I can still visit this client, for now.

That's my update from the shadows.

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