As the situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changes daily, I want to assure the families and the clients I work with that I’m closely following guidance from state and local public health officials and government agencies. I also encourage families to stay educated and follow credible sources for up-to-date information, particularly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Unfortunately, rumors, mixed messages, and misinformation about the virus are rampant, leading to panicked decisions and hoarding. As a result, equipment needed for healthcare professionals working on the front lines, such as face masks and medical respirators (surgical N95), are in short supply. Medical respirators are recommended only for use by healthcare personnel who need protection from airborne and fluid hazards.
The WHO advises that face masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-washing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based rub, and if you’re healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you’re taking care of a person with a suspected COVID-19 infection. People can also wear a mask to protect others if they are coughing or sneezing. If you do wear a mask, it’s important not to have a false sense of security that you’re totally protected from infection, and also important to know how to use and dispose of it properly.
The lockdown in many states of nursing facilities is of great concern to families, but is intended to reduce the risk of transmission to older, vulnerable adults. Still, it’s not easy on the families or on seniors. If your aging loved one is living at home and at higher risk for serious illness from the virus because of serious long-term health problems, the CDC recommends the following:
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce the risk of being exposed.
- Stock up on supplies. (Not always easy given the shortages of basic necessities.) Try to use grocery delivery if possible, and online services.
In times like these, it’s especially important to take care of your health, use common sense, and stay calm. This crisis will eventually pass, but in the meantime, we can all do our part to stay informed and reduce the spread of the virus.
If you’re struggling with this, Growing Options can help. Find a GCM in your area.