There’s an important fact that shouldn’t be sugar coated or downplayed at this critical time: older adults are at much higher risk of contracting the coronavirus and are likely to experience the worst symptoms that could lead to death.
Here are some facts from the World Health Organization (WHO):
The mortality among COVID-19 cases increases with the patient’s age and with those who have pre-ex health conditions.
To put this in perspective, children age 10 and under represent just 1 percent of all COVID-19 cases
In contracts, adults between the ages of 30 and 79 make up nearly 90 percent of coronavirus cases.
Patients with COVID-19 who are over 80 years of age have a fatality rate close to 15%.
Yet many seniors aren’t taking the coronavirus as seriously as they should. But why? (And are you one of them?)
There are several reasons why some older adults may be taking a more casual approach to the situation. One is, older adults have already lived through many significant and often stressful events in their lives, so hardship is something they have already experienced.
Other times, the reasons may not be as big and broad. For instance, many people who are seniors simply don’t think of themselves as “older” and therefore don’t see themselves at risk.
Another reason is older adults have been encouraged again and again by health experts to stay active by getting out taking part in group activities, like exercise classes or book clubs. Now, suddenly, the experts are telling them to do exactly the opposite.
Pre-Existing Conditions Increase Risk, Too
Another factor to consider when it comes to older adults and the coronavirus: having a pre-existing health condition like diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, escalates your risk further.
This is significant because it could mean tens of millions of older adults could need medical care, if they contract the virus. (Note that 38% of American seniors report they have a pre-existing health condition.)
So what does it all mean? Seniors are at serious risk—and they need to take a serious approach to reduce it.
Ways to Navigate the Times and Maintain Your Health
While these facts are sobering, there are things that you should do as an older adult to avoid contracting COVID-19 or potentially spreading it to others. Additionally, there are things you should do to prepare in other ways, so navigating these times is a bit easier on you.
Maintaining Your Health
Fill Prescriptions Early: If you take medications to manage chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, don’t wait until the last minute to fill your prescriptions. Make sure you have enough medications on hand, especially as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rises and doctors and other healthcare professionals may be overwhelmed caring for such a larger number of patients.
Find Out If Your Doctor Offers Telemedicine: Telemedicine allows doctors and their patients to communicate over video or email rather than having a face-to-face appointment. Although it’s not the same as talking to your doctor in person, it can be just as helpful, and if you need care but are not supposed to leave your home, it could be an excellent option.
Get a Home Videochat Set Up: If you don’t already use a video chat program on your computer or smartphone and you’re not technically minded, ask a friend or caregiver to help set one up for you. Most programs are free or have a free version, and the people you contact can also get it for free, too. Although it’s not the same as being face-to-face, video chatting can be an excellent substitute while you are at home.
Do Everything You Can to Avoid the Virus and Avoid Spreading It
You’ve Heard It Once, But We’ll Say It Again: Washing your hands properly is one of the most important things you can do to avoid the coronavirus. This involves washing thoroughly (f for 20 second or mores or using a hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60% when soap and water aren’t available.
Cover Up: Always cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue away, and afterwards, wash your hands. If a tissue is unavailable, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow—and though it’s one of the most difficult things for us to do—avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth since you could introduce the virus into your body.
Stay Home: The mandate is now this: stay home. But if there is an emergency and you must go out, be sure to practice social distancing which means staying at least 6 feet away from others.
Practice Good Mental Health, Too
Don’t Let Yourself Get Lonely: Limiting in-person contact may be difficult for you, especially if you cherish time spent with friends and family members who don’t’ live with you. Find other ways to say in touch through phone calls, emails, social media or video chatting.
Avoid the 24/7 News Cycle: During this time of uncertainty, it is also very important for you to take care of your emotional well-being and mental state. It’s easy to become stressed or upset with access to a 24 hour news cycle that features the latest bad news. Take breaks from reading, watching or listening to news and instead take deep breaths, get exercise, take some time to
Don’t Misuse Alcohol or Drugs: If you have troubling thoughts, don’t try to numb them by misusing alcohol or drugs. Instead, be honest and let your friends and family know how you are feeling.
If you feel you need more help, contact your doctor or call the CDC’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help, too. Call 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.