In early 2020, COVID-19 hit the Earth like a comet. For seniors in nursing homes, the ground that it seared was already pockmarked by frailty due to advanced age and cognitive impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now comes a new “tsunami of suffering” — social isolation and death.
Nursing homes have been the epicenter of the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. In many states, more than half of coronavirus deaths are connected to long-term care facilities.
More than 43,000 long-term care residents and staff have died from COVID-19, representing over a third of the nation’s known coronavirus deaths, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tally (Source: AARP, June 11, 2020).
As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.
The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those 85 or older.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, there are things you should do to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is particularly important for those at increased risk of severe illness, including older adults, to receive recommended vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease. Remember the importance of staying physically active and practice healthy habits to cope with stress.
There are also other factors that can increase your risk for severe illness, such as having underlying medical conditions. By understanding the factors that put you at an increased risk, you can make decisions about what kind of precautions to take in your daily life.
Talk to your health-care provider about whether your vaccinations and other preventive services are up to date to help prevent you from becoming ill with other diseases.
It is especially important for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is to:
- Limit your interactions with other people as much as possible.
- Take precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 when you do interact with others.
1) Venturing out into a public setting? What to consider before you go:
As communities and businesses across the United States are opening, you may be thinking about resuming some activities, running errands and attending events and gatherings. There is no way to ensure you have zero risk of infection, so it is important to understand the risks and know how to be as safe as possible.
People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, should consider their level of risk before deciding to go out and ensure they are taking steps to protect themselves. Consider avoiding activities where taking protective measures might be difficult, such as activities where social distancing can’t be maintained.
Everyone should take steps to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19 to protect themselves, their communities and people who are at increased risk of severe illness.
In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
- If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions.
- Keep these items on hand and use them when venturing out: a cloth face covering, tissues and a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, if possible.
- Try to avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.
2) Are you considering in-person visits with family and friends? Here are some things to consider to help make your visit as safe as possible:
When to delay or cancel a visit:
- Delay or cancel a visit if you or your visitors have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
- Anyone who has had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should stay home and monitor for symptoms.
In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
So, think about:
- How many people will you interact with?
- Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others?
- Will you be outdoors or indoors?
- What’s the length of time that you will be interacting with people?
Encourage social distancing during your visit.
- Visit with your friends and family outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well ventilated (for example, open windows or doors) and large enough to accommodate social distancing.
- Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart from each other.
- Consider activities where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or yard games.
- Try to avoid close contact with your visitors. For example, don’t shake hands, elbow bump or hug. Instead, wave and verbally greet them.
- If possible, avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.
- Consider keeping a list of people you visited or who visited you and when the visit occurred. This will help with contract tracing if someone becomes sick.
Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.