By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., Executive Director, Colony Retirement Homes
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Helen Keller
Coronavirus is scary and sometimes fear makes us freeze. The purpose of this article is to give you some ideas on how to make this virus more manageable and to give you concrete steps elders and their caregivers can take in advance to keep you healthy.
The Chinese CDC indicates coronavirus is less deadly than the flu, but more contagious. As with most illness, the elderly and the frail are most at risk. Coronavirus usually causes mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever. In some people, it can cause pneumonia, breathing difficulties and in a very small number of cases, death. Those most at risk include health care professionals, the elderly, and people who have certain medical conditions. Those conditions include: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and hypertension.
As always, good hygiene is the best way to prevent spread of the virus. Washing hands regularly and keeping hands away from the face or mouth will prevent many infections. Covering your cough or sneeze is not just respectful to others, it is essential. If there is an outbreak, people are advised to stay six feet away from all people, but to isolate more if you are sick or there are sick people around.
It is this recommendation of isolation that offers elders and their caregivers the opportunity to prepare. Even if you are not sick, you won’t want to go to grocery stores or many other public places. If you were confined to your apartment for two weeks or more, what would you need? For a healthy person, I would recommend:
- Enough food and drinks to last at least two weeks
- Prescription medicines – preferably a supply that would last no fewer than two weeks
- Oxygen or other specialized items you are likely to need
If I was sick, I would additionally want:
- Beverages like ginger ale, tea, or Gatorade that are particularly soothing or rehydrating
- Soups or broths
- Over the counter medicines that addressed typical flu-like symptoms.
Your family members, neighbors, and other caregivers might also get sick. You may not have the same support network as you are used to having. If you get sick, many people will actively avoid coming to visit, and they should! You may want someone to care for you, but unless you truly need the help, it is safer for you to be alone. Is there any way you can prepare now to rely on fewer people?
Many people may need to go to the hospital, but hospitals may be overwhelmed. It may be best to call first to see what your doctor advises.
Do you have a pet? If you get sick, who will care for your pet? Can you arrange for additional help in advance? Remember to tell your building manager who has your permission to enter your apartment if you are not home.
Do you have a copy of your health care proxy handy? If you go to the hospital, you will need an updated list of conditions and medications. Is there one in your wallet, on your fridge or somewhere the paramedics can grab it and take it to the hospital with you?
We may not be able to control all aspects of this virus, but we can take control of the piece that is ours. Please plan ahead. We are all counting on you to do the something you can do.