COVID-19 - April 16, 2020
By Kathie Miller
As the world was first hearing about the novel coronavirus we now refer to as COVID-19, we were also hearing a lot about how it was affecting older adults. And the news wasn’t good. It seemed older adults were more likely to have severe cases and more likely to die from the disease.
This virus is new, so we’re still learning about it. Track the news closely, and you are likely to hear new discoveries almost daily. At Goodwin House, we closely track guidelines and protocols provided by the health agencies leading our national and regional efforts – the Centers for Disease Control and our state and local health departments. We also seek the advice of our medical doctors, including Dr. Mariatu Koroma-Nelson, who serves as medical director for our Life Plan Communities and is a physician with the Virginia Hospital Center, and Dr. Margaret Gloria, who is the medical director for Goodwin House Hospice.
In this article, we’ll try to provide you with some basic facts regarding what we know today, as well as recommended resources you can rely on for up-to-date information as this continues to develop.
As part of an extensive infection precaution and education program, Goodwin House hosted an exclusive webinar for Goodwin House at Home members on March 25. During this webinar, Dr. Gloria provided an overview and answered medical questions submitted in advance.
Dr. Gloria shared the following: “Based on a study in China that looked at 44,000 patients, age is an independent risk factor for increased risk of complications from COVID-19. The authors separately looked at other medical comorbidities (cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, etc.) which also independently increased risk of complications from COVID-19.”
The bottom line is this: Age alone is a risk factor.
It’s simply a biological fact. As we age, our bodies change. One of those inevitable changes is a weakened immune system. According to the National Foundation for Infection Diseases (NFID), “our immune systems grow weaker as we age, which makes it more challenging for older adults to fight off infectious diseases.” As this relates specifically to COVID-19, NFID goes on to state, “Chronic diseases are more common with age, can compromise the immune system, and make people more vulnerable to serious complications.”
This means that if you are both over the age of 65 and have certain chronic conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, your risks could be even greater.
It is important to note that COVID-19 can and does affect all people, at any age. Also important is that chronic conditions present greater risks for those under the age of 65, too. Chronic conditions as well as age are individual risk factors.
By now, you are probably very familiar with the standard guidelines everyone should be following:
It is also important to remember that you should not welcome visitors into your home, and that includes family members who don’t share the same household, as well as regular visits from cleaners. “I would be very cautious about having anyone come into the home, because they may be sick but not symptomatic yet or they may have COVID-19 and never show symptoms,” explains Dr. Gloria. “I would recommend only allowing people into the home for emergencies (like a plumber for a clogged toilet) and then cleaning surfaces they might have touched after they leave.”
You should also ask anyone who comes to your home for such an emergency service to wear a mask, foot coverings (if they have them) and to wash their hands immediately upon entering your home and before doing any work inside your home.
We can all admit that staying home is not as easy as it might sound. We not only long to see friends and be social, we miss running errands such as going to the grocery store. Though if any era were designed to facilitate staying safe and healthy at home, it is today’s era.
While we might wish to stroll the produce aisle to check the latest in-season fruits and vegetables, your greatest risk is being in the store. Stay home and use grocery delivery services such as Instacart and Peapod. You can also order from many local grocery stores such as Harris Teeter and schedule curbside pick-up. Prefer to shop at Whole Foods? Consider using their online ordering service. And did you know that CVS delivers? You can order more than 1,000 items for delivery.
Please know that some of these services might vary by where you live. And be sure to plan ahead for both delivery and pick-up. These days, supplies of certain items can run low, and scheduled pick-up times might be a week or more in your future, so be sure to have a plan to stay stocked.
Another great way to eat well while staying home – order delivery or curbside pick-up from your favorite restaurants. Arlington County offers a list of restaurants that are open and offering delivery or pickup. Fairfax County offers this resource. And Visit Alexandria launched a special site, ALX at Home, to provide updates.
Not only do you get to enjoy someone else’s cooking and your favorite restaurant meals, you are also doing your part to help these local businesses stay afloat during these challenging times.
With food and house supplies ordered and delivered, this actually leaves more time for other things – reading that book you’ve been meaning to read for months, watch a movie via a streaming service, tend to your garden. You can also learn new skills or engage in critical thinking by browsing TEDTalks or MasterClass.
Of course, all these activities are better with friends and family, so ask them to take part in the fun! Invite them to read the same book, watch the same movie or TEDTalk, take the same museum or park tour, and then schedule a video chat to discuss it together. You can still enjoy experiences together while apart.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, we’re learning more and more every day. We encourage you to avoid watching too much news, but rely on the following for credible updates and additional resources:
And you can check out additional Goodwin House resources here:
As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin House. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.