Dear Annie: I am so concerned for my elderly loved ones during this pandemic, my father in particular. He's 89 and lives in a retirement community. As of today, they're still allowing them to go to the dining hall. They've reduced the number of tables and seating by half so that everyone can be spaced out. However, it seems like such a huge and unnecessary risk, given their age group. I've urged him to stay at his house (he has a little standalone unit on the campus), but he refuses to listen. He says that breakfast and lunch are the only times he gets to socialize. What can I do to get him to take this seriously? — Distressed Daughter
Dear Distressed: First, I must note that this is a rapidly evolving situation. Between the time I write this column and when it goes to print, the circumstances will almost certainly have shifted. Check with your local officials for the latest guidelines in your area.
That being said, you might share with your father that these are the groups at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (list courtesy of CDC.gov):
—People aged 65 years and older.
—People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
—People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
—People who have heart disease with complications.
—People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment.
—People of any age with severe obesity or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure or liver disease, might also be at risk.
—People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness; however, to date, data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk.
—Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
Your dad belongs to at least two of those groups. The best thing that any of us can do right now is to stay home as much as possible, and that is especially true for seniors and other high-risk groups. Please visit CDC.gov for the latest info and AARP.org for information pertinent to seniors.
Dear Annie: During this unexpected upheaval around the globe, I believe that isolation is as harmful as the threat of physical illness. Now is a good time for friends and family to gather together to count blessings as well as to share grief. One big blessing is that most of us can stay connected over the internet and telephone. In order to stay connected, there are free services like Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and video conferences on Zoom. I have started to call those who live alone and those I haven't spoken to in years. My favorite thing to do is to throw virtual tea parties on Zoom with small groups. It feels so uplifting to maintain a sense of community. — Putting the Kettle On
Dear Putting the Kettle On: I absolutely love this idea. Socializing is so important to our mental health, and in reducing stress, it contributes to our physical health, as well. I appreciate your excellent suggestions.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]