It seems like ages ago when we lived our lives without fear of going to the grocery store, cleaners, dinner with friends, or to work in our offices. I remember that time with great nostalgia and longing. But alas, life has taken an unexpected turn. “We are all in this together” has come to mean that we are all suffering from being isolated in our homes, exhausted from being careful and obsessing about everything we do, and mostly always being afraid. Covid Fatigue has become a very real phenomenon. According to Kay Hermanson of UC Davis Health, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, we are all suffering from both intense stress and prolonged stress. That is a prescription for anxiety, despair, and helplessness as well as a call to take care of ourselves on every level.
The solutions typically touted are exercise, talking to someone about it, attempting to think constructively, mindfulness and most importantly – gratitude. Staying in touch with friends and family via Zoom, phone, email, Skype, etc is essential for survival. But what I wonder about are the decisions we make about leaving the safety of our own homes. Those things beyond hand washing, social distancing, always wearing a mask, wiping high contact surfaces are relatively concrete essential tasks that most of us can understand. But we also should consider deciding how to go on living for the foreseeable future.
A couple of weeks ago, it became clear that I needed to see my dentist. Do I live with 2 chipped teeth? It was my son’s special birthday. Do I see him and his girlfriend and try to celebrate? Do I get my hair cut and colored or live with the greying wild hair version of myself? Do I shop in the grocery store? Since there is no end in sight for sure, how do I navigate my life path until 2021 (hopefully)?
There is nothing we do that does not add to our stress. Unless we remain locked-down, each day we expend a great deal of energy thinking about every step we take. I think about my age (over 60). I think about my asthma. I think about getting sick every time I get into my car. I think about my clients and who I must see in person, on Zoom, by phone and how to put each one into one of those categories. I think and I think and I think!
Managing Our Choices
The decision to leave your house is different for each of us. We never want to make ourselves or anyone “wrong”. All we can do is to make sure that our friends, family, and work partners know the facts and support them to make their own decisions that hopefully do not jeopardize themselves or others. We must respect each person’s right to choose for themselves. We walk the line based upon our own comfort zone and risk tolerance as well as the facts at hand.
The CDC provides valuable information about how to consider your choices. But rest assured, there is no way to ensure you have zero risk of infection. 8 out of 10 Covid-19 related deaths reported in the US have been in adults 65 years old and older. There is no way around that. It drives every decision those in this age group make.
Before you venture out know the risks according to the CDC:
- Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings
- More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area.
- Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area
- Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.
Walking Your Covid Line
As an Aging Life Care professional, our work focuses upon giving clients the tools and means to proactively plan for their future. A concrete plan reduces stress and uncertainty. The CDC recommends the following:
- Develop a Care Plan. It summarizes your health conditions, medicines, healthcare providers, emergency contacts, and end-of-life care options. You can find guidance on the CDC website or consider hiring an Aging Life Care professional to help you tailor make the best plan for you.
- Always practice the CDC guidelines we all know about when leaving home: Wear a Mask! Social distancing, small groups of people, cleaning high contact surfaces. (I can say this in my sleep!)
- Do not neglect your health. For example, mammograms, yearly physicals, Tele-Health, when it makes sense, dental care, elective surgery. Pick and choose the important things. For example, this may not be the time for plastic surgery. Choose your risks because each of these choices contains some risk. Without proper ongoing care, however, there are potentially dangerous risks too!
- Have Covid friends. This has been a personal choice for me and my husband. We have selected one couple we have seen throughout the Covid era. We know that their choices match our own. We only meet outside. We wear masks when we are not eating. If one of the couples has been in contact with someone else of an unknown ilk, we quarantine from each other for 2 weeks.
- We have seen our grandchildren outside in the back of their house. We stay 6 feet apart with masks. When they travel, we quarantine for 2 weeks and the family gets tested for Covid before we see each again.
- Consider your own personal risk tolerance. Mine was to get a color and cut in an environment with strict adherence to CDC guidelines. But, of course, that does not mean that I feel safe. It was the choice for myself and I know and accept this level of risk in this situation.
Discover Your Own Covid Line
The Covid Line has a center and two poles. The right pole is total adherence to the least amount of risk. The left pole is a laissez- faire attitude towards risk. Where can you hang out for the foreseeable future?
In the meantime, focus upon the undeniable gift of having the time to take the time for yourself!
About the Author
Beverly Bernstein Joie is the founder and president of Complete Care Strategies, a senior care management company serving Philadelphia and its surrounding communities. A Certified Aging Life Care Manager with more than 20 years of experience, Beverly has worked in senior care since 1994, both in assisted living communities and in private practice. She is a member of the Aging Life Care Association and was a former president of the Philadelphia Chapter.
Complete Care Strategies consists of care managers, specialized human service professionals, who advocate and direct the care of seniors and others facing ongoing health challenges. Working with families, its expertise provides the answers at a time of uncertainty. Along with its licensed home care division, it can help clients safely remain at home under the watchful eye of skilled professionals. Families are afforded an integrated model of care that, with guidance and advocacy, lead them to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love