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Our older adults are at the highest risk during the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore it is up to all of us to practice social distancing and necessary isolation to protect those who are most vulnerable. In addition to those over the age of 65, individuals with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and other autoimmune deficiencies have been identified as the most vulnerable during this pandemic. The number of infections continues to grow exponentially, but we can slow the progression and “flatten the curve.” But it will take all of us to be disciplined and concerned about those who are at greatest risk. At Keiro, we regularly use the phrase, “it takes a community to care for older adults” and right now, that phrase resonates more than ever—it will take a community! It does not matter if you are a sansei, caregiver, student, temple leader, consider yourself Japanese American or Japanese, we must all come together as a community to protect our older adults during these uncertain times. Keiro is imploring everyone to be safe and keep those most vulnerable in mind while we weather this pandemic together.
In addition to all the precautions such as washing hands (for at least 20 seconds) regularly or cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, public health professionals recommend the practice of “social distancing” which can help significantly slow the spread. Social distancing is “trying to keep some space between you and other people,” especially at public events and activities (Nania, 2020). Health officials are recommending that people maintain a distance of at least six feet from one another. They are also encouraging people to avoid places with large crowds and groups of ten or more people. On a daily basis, health departments at the federal, state, and local levels are implementing new guidelines to limit the spread of this pandemic. This not only pertains to people who are sick, but especially to those in good health to decrease the spread of the disease.
The 2014 ebola epidemic in Africa showed that minimizing contact with others helped decrease the spread (Johnson, Sun, & Freedman, 2020). As this viral match video illustrates, the importance of social distancing and taking appropriate measures to keep ourselves safe will help not just us as individuals, but everyone else too.
Social distancing also helps the health care system as well by decreasing the number of people needing medical care at one time. Anne Shuchat, principal deputy director of the Center for Disease Control describes, “If 100 people were going to get sick over 100 days, you would have a certain kind of pressure on the health care system. But if 100 people get sick all in the same day, it’s a different kind of pressure” (Nania, 2020).
The CDC says that older adults and those who have chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease have a higher risk of getting very sick. Reported mortality rates can be as high as 18% for those age 80 and above (Irfan and Belluz, 2020).
Gavin Newsom strongly recommended that individuals age 65 and older and those
with certain chronic conditions self-isolate at home as much as possible. As
many of these chronic health conditions are prevalent in the Japanese American and
Japanese community, Keiro asks that we all take our part in helping prevent the
spread of the virus and protect those that are at high risk.
For all of us,
whether healthy or sick, young or old, we can take action by staying home as
much as we can. During this time, asking for help does not signify that you are
not capable for taking care of yourself and you should never consider asking
for help as a sign of losing your independence. Instead, asking for help as you
remain home will protect yourself and others from further contributing to this
pandemic. Please ask an able-bodied friend or family member to help you with
your daily chores such as going to the grocery stores or pharmacy.
In such uncertain times, isolation may be important, but shutting all communications is not the ideal situation. Keiro would like to challenge each one of you to call or use other applications like FaceTime or Skype to keep each other company virtually, to still engage in conversations and stay socially active. Read this article on things you can do at home.
In closing, we
are asking everyone, regardless of age or health condition, to practice social
distancing in order to protect those in our community who are most vulnerable.
Reach out to an older adult in your life by phone or FaceTime to keep them socially
engaged. Teach an older adult how to use food delivery services, streaming
services, or other web-based options. We are in unprecedented times right now,
but we can all do our part to stop the spread of this pandemic not only for
ourselves, but the older adults in Our Community.
Abrahamson, R.P. (2020, March 16). Viral ‘match video’ shows how social distancing can save lives. Retrieved from https://www.today.com/health/viral-match-video-shows-how-social-distancing-can-save-lives-t176068
Ifran, U. & Belluz, J. (2020, March 12). Why Covid-19 is so dangerous for older adults. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2020/3/12/21173783/coronavirus-death-age-covid-19-elderly-seniors?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=535ebe41-9be6-4ef8-8508-b508675f9197
Johnson, C.Y, Sun, L.H., & Freedman, A. (2020, March 10). Social Distancing could buy U.S. valuable time against coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/10/social-distancing-coronavirus/
Nania, R. (2020, March 13). Social Distancing: What it is, why it’s important, how to do it. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/social-distancing.html?intcmp=AE-HP-BB-LL1
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