Note of disclaimer: Coronavirus is an ever-evolving world health situation and I am not a physician. My advice is based on the most current research from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of this writing on March 11, 2020.
For many of us, life may be feeling shakier than usual right now. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and its as-yet uncharted forward course, one thing we do know is that, as with any infectious disease (including the flu), the elderly population is more at risk than the general population for suffering the most serious effects from infection.
That’s why avoiding exposure is simply the best bet for staying well, for those in the at-risk population.
However, as a caretaker of your elderly parent or parents, it’s important to exercise healthy vigilance without panicking, and to help Mom and Dad (and other family members) to do the same. So for those of us who have elderly parents who are still fortunate enough to be aging in place, these are a few of the tips I would suggest offering your folks right now, in the hopes of keeping them safe:
Stay away from crowded spaces
Shopping centers, big-box stores, parties, religious services, etc. are not only full of people who may unknowingly be contagious carriers due to their own exposure, but public spaces are simply full of germs. Railings, door knobs, faucets, etc. are holding onto this virus for days, not hours.
What about groceries? Help Mom and Dad find a young and healthy neighbor or friend to shop and deliver the items to their doorstep, or use a grocery-delivery service. Many pharmacies today also offer delivery services, and some are doing so free of charge to help their customers stay well. Make sure your folks purchase enough of their most-used supplies so that they don’t have to “just run to the store,” for an item or two.
Curtail unnecessary outings and appointments
If a person’s health depends on keeping their medical procedures (dialysis, chemotherapy, etc.), those are appointments to keep. An annual physical, on the other hand, can wait.
We should all wash our hands often, using soap and water, and wash for 20 seconds. Carry hand sanitizer (60 percent or more alcohol is best), though soap and water should be the first plan of attack. Use a tissue, your sleeve, or even a pen to push the elevator button. While it may feel strange or rude, it’s also time to stop shaking hands.
Don’t touch your face
It’s a hard habit to break, but be aware of face touching. Eyes, nose, and mouth are the areas we’re most prone to touch unconsciously. These are also the surest direct routes for infection.
Keep it clean
Stay on top of cleaning and disinfecting the most-touched and used surfaces in your home, using a ture disinfectant cleaner.
Cancel any upcoming travel plans involving planes and cruises (and crowds)
About all, do not take a cruise until health restrictions have been lifted.
These restrictions and recommendations may go on for many months. We all feel unsettled and vulnerable, but it’s important to remember that the majority of people who do contract the novel Coronavirus get through it within a few days and without complications. It’s far more dangerous to those with health issues and the elderly, so implementing best practices in health is a good course of action right now.
If you or your family need to talk through any fears or how to strike the right balance of safety and composure, please get in touch.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.