COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting elderly, pregnant and immunocompromised people and individuals with preexisting health conditions. For elders over the age of 80, the case fatality rate after testing positive for COVID-19 is 15 percent. For the critically ill, that percentage increases to 49 percent . There are currently no COVID-19 deaths reported for pregnant people.

With elders having the highest fatality rate thus far in this pandemic, limiting their exposure is a necessary measure to ensure survival rates in this beloved and vulnerable population. However, the challenge of not being able to physically and emotionally connect with our loved ones can also have detrimental effects on their health.

Now is the time for us to support our elders by not putting them even more at risk of contracting COVID-19. We can do so by getting creative in our interactions and by centering joy, play and laughter rather than panic, scarcity and fear. When we respond to this pandemic with fear, it impacts our immune system’s ability to fight off antigens, making us more susceptible to infection and contagion.

Here are few things we can do to maintain these connections with ours elders:

  1. Calling elders regularly and checking in to see how they are doing. Ask about their neighbors and if there is a community response to COVID-19. 
  2. Ask what’s on their minds and what ways they’ve seen people get creative in showing up for one another. What do they need and do they have their physician’s contact information? Do they know how to reach them if they should exhibit symptoms? 
  3. Check in about what supplies—emergency kits, food and so on—they may have, but do so without moving them toward panic. Do they have a plan if they need to stay home for a few weeks and/or who are their emergency contacts?
  4. Listen to their stories and ask them about their lives. They might become disoriented during the call and that is okay.
  5. If the elder is in a nursing facility, familiarize yourself with the staff and protocols by calling in and asking what they’re doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
    1. Ask if they have any suggestions or insight into how the elder would like to be engaged with.
  6. Do not go visit them. This is a hard but necessary boundary. Younger folks may not exhibit any symptoms but are often carriers for the virus and could pass it on to elders, staff and health professionals.
    1. This can be fatal for them, so it’s necessary to stay away.

With diligence and love, we can all do our part to protect elders during these uncertain times.

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ESSENCE is committed to bringing our audience the latest facts about COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our content team is closely monitoring the developing details surrounding the virus via official sources and health care experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Please continue to refresh ESSENCE’s informational hub for updates on COVID-19, as well as for tips on taking care of yourselves, your families and your communities.

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