Tips for se­niors to stay con­nected dur­ing coro­n­avirus

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - COMMUNITY - By Laurie Arch­baldPan­none Univer­sity of Vir­ginia

As the num­bers climb for those in­fected with the novel coro­n­avirus, the dan­gers rise for vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. Peo­ple who are older or with un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions risk the sever­est con­se­quences, in­clud­ing or­gan fail­ure and death. The lat­est data from China in­di­cates the great ma­jor­ity of re­ported cases were in older peo­ple; elders also had the high­est risk of res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness and death.

Should the spread of COVID-19 con­tinue — and ev­ery in­di­ca­tion sug­gests it will — peo­ple must make sure they are pro­tected.

I am a ge­ri­a­tri­cian and an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia in ge­ri­atric medicine. So far, the dis­ease is not present at my hospi­tal or clinic.

But our staff is al­ready mak­ing prepa­ra­tions to min­i­mize COVID-19’s im­pact, par­tic­u­larly on the peo­ple im­per­iled the most.

Along with other hos­pi­tals across the coun­try, we stay in­formed on local and na­tional rec­om­men­da­tions for screen­ing, test­ing and pro­tec­tive equip­ment.

Ways to re­duce ex­po­sure

For those most at risk for se­vere in­fec­tion: do ev­ery­thing you can to re­duce ex­po­sure to the virus. Keep space be­tween you and any­one who is sick. Avoid crowds. Limit your time in pub­lic by con­sol­i­dat­ing trips to get sup­plies. When out, try to keep a dis­tance from oth­ers. Wash your hands of­ten. And if a COVID-19 out­break oc­curs in your com­mu­nity, stay home as much as pos­si­ble.

“So­cial dis­tanc­ing” is the new phrase that de­scribes most of this, and it goes against what we typ­i­cally ad­vo­cate for our older pa­tients. As geri­a­tri­cians, we pro­mote the benefits of so­cial en­gage­ment to our pa­tients; we re­mind them of the poor health out­comes associated with so­cial iso­la­tion. Now, with COVID-19, the times have changed. But along with the risk of coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion comes the risk of so­cial iso­la­tion. How should older peo­ple bal­ance th­ese com­pet­ing rec­om­men­da­tions? Dur­ing a time of so­cial dis­tanc­ing, here are four ways for elders to stay so­cially con­nected.

LEARN THE NEW TECH­NOL­OGY >> FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Face­book, Twit­ter, Snapchat and lots more. All sorts of on­line options ex­ist to talk with fam­ily and friends. And you don’t have to be tech-savvy. Do­ing the basics is easy, and for most peo­ple, fun. If set­ting up an ac­count is daunt­ing, ask a neigh­bor, niece or nephew for help and a quick tu­to­rial.

STAY AC­TIVE IN THE COM­MU­NITY FROM HOME >> It may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive. How can you re­main a part of the com­mu­nity if the goal is to sep­a­rate from the com­mu­nity? But maybe there’s a re­mote op­tion. Many or­ga­ni­za­tions — po­lit­i­cal par­ties, faithbased groups, non­prof­its — rely on vol­un­teers to make phone calls. You can do that clearly com­mu­nity-based ac­tiv­ity right at home.

GO ON A NEWS DIET >> Stay in­formed, know what’s go­ing on but don’t get locked into end­lessly watch­ing “break­ing news” on the 24-hour news chan­nels. Typ­i­cally, not much changes hour to hour. But en­dur­ing the rep­e­ti­tious pum­mel­ing from TV all day long can bring need­less anx­i­ety. My pa­tients have found the fol­low­ing advice help­ful: Watch a news up­date in the morn­ing, then check in again at night. Don’t stay with it all evening — 30 min­utes or an hour is plenty.

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