Covid-19 Safety and the Elderly

The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has exploded from a news story taking place elsewhere to an unprecedented disruption of daily life here in the US. I’m sure many of you are thinking of your elderly loved ones, and what you can do to help. 

First and foremost: the measures being enacted by the government – social distancing, closing of schools, limiting large public gatherings – are not designed to keep YOU healthy. The vast majority of the population will suffer no long term effect from contracting Covid-19. These measures are designed to keep the rest of the population safe: the elderly, the immunocompromised, those with chronic pulmonary disease, the very young, pregnant women, and more. So any inconvenience you feel should be balanced against seeing the people you love struggling to breathe and there not being a hospital bed for them. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

Specifically, when it comes to people in those groups, you have to think always about minimizing exposure. For elderly relatives or neighbors who live independently, offer to go grocery shopping so they don’t have to go out. Cook at home rather than going out to eat, or have take out food delivered to your home rather than theirs and bring it over to them once the containers have been wiped down with soap or other cleansers. 

If it is at all possible, hold off on visiting seniors at residential facilities or having them come visit you even if you have no symptoms. I know at times like this the instinct is to be with family, but this disease can only be spread through close personal contact. A visit with family may be fun, but it could be catastrophic for the health of your relatives and everyone else they live near. 

Lastly: be very wary of which news sources you listen to and repeat. Be wary of any story preceded by phrases like “according to reports” or “reports are saying” or “it has been claimed”. It’s an overwhelming situation, and there’s a lot of news out there. But making sure before you spread a claim will help everyone in the long term. 

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