Many of our AgingOptions blog readers are grandparents – and if that describes you, then you have probably spent the past two-plus months going through major “grandchild withdrawal.” The isolation forced on all of us by COVID-19 has left hug-hungry Nanas and Papas, Grandmas and Grandpas starved for the kind of physical contact that a Zoom call can never provide.
Dear Grandma – We Know You Miss the Grandkids, but Not So Fast!
However, before you decide it’s time to end the self-isolation and head off to see those perfect grandkids, you might want to read this imaginary “Letter to Grandma” penned by Scottie Andrew for the CNN website, where we read it last week. The essence of the message: “Not so fast.”
“Dear Grandma,” Andrew’s letter begins: “We know you’re itching to see your grandkids after spending the last few weeks in isolation. But a visit with family may not be the safest idea at the moment.” He reminds readers that the best way researchers know of to control the spread of COVID-19 is self-quarantine, a practice which is believed to have saved tens of thousands of lives since the practice became widespread in early March. As hard as it is for grandparents to hear, that self-quarantine needs to last a bit longer.
Dear Grandma – Is the Risk Really Worth It?
In preparing his note to impatient grandparents, Andrew consulted Dr. Samir Sinha, a leading geriatrician in Toronto. “I think the pandemic has been really hard for everybody, but social isolation is a particular issue for older adults,” Sinha told CNN. “One of the greatest joys for older people is seeing younger people in their lives and having intergenerational connections.”
As CNN’s Andrew puts it, “On one hand, meaningful connections are hugely important – they can enrich and even prolong your life. But,” he adds, “seeing a loved one means you’ll interact with people you haven’t seen in weeks who’ve spent their isolation in a different environment than you. You have to decide whether that risk is worth it to you.” Because grandparents are among the most vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus, until there’s a vaccine, they really should continue to stay home if they can. Grandparents, says Andrew, “are more likely to become severely ill if they contract coronavirus. We don’t want that to be you.”
Dear Grandma – It’s a Tricky Balance, so Let’s Talk About It
Dr. Sinha acknowledges that most families with grandparents separated from grandkids by COVID-19 are feeling the stress. “There is this tension between families where older people feel their families are being overprotective of them or infringing on their rights,” he told CNN. But the truth is that most families are just trying to protect their older loved ones, even if it sometimes feels to the grandparents that they’re being kept at arm’s length unfairly.
It doesn’t have to be a stalemate, CNN says. Good, open communication is the key. “It should be a shared choice,” Dr. Sinha says. “[The grandparent] hears why their loved one actually wants to protect them, and this prompts a conversation and helps the person understand, ‘While I’m worried about you getting COVID-19, I appreciate that you want to protect me from that.’”
Dear Grandma – Have You Been Guarding Your Own Health?
Before insisting on visiting the grandkids, grandparents need to assess how well they’ve been safeguarding their own health during the coronavirus self-quarantine. “Have you been staying home and limiting your exposures?” asks Andrew. “Or have you had to work daily in environments that could expose them to the virus?” If you’ve been out and about quite a bit, that’s one more reason for everyone’s sake that you keep your visits virtual for a bit longer.
Dr. Sinha developed these health recommendations in cooperation with the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council:
- Be well. Andrew writes, “Make sure you’re not sick when you plan to visit, whether that means a runny nose, fever or stomach ache – any form of illness. We won’t let you visit if any of us are sick, either.” This is simple common sense.
- Wear masks. “Keep it on for the duration of your visit, if you can. If you’re asymptomatic, masks help keep you from breathing out the virus.” (We would add that masks also tend to keep us from touching our faces, which most of us do frequently.)
- Wash your hands. “As soon as you walk in, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water,” Andrew writes to Grandma. “As your family, we’ll disinfect frequently touched surfaces before you arrive.”
- Greet without touch. This may be the toughest advice for physically demonstrative grandparents to hear: no kisses or hugs. Sounds impossible, but it can be done.
- Keep your distance. “You know the drill: Keep at least six feet of distance,” says Andrew. “We know, it’s weird” he adds. And he’s right.
- Update vaccinations. Sinha also recommends his older patients make sure their vaccinations against the flu and pneumonia are up to date. “If you do come down with coronavirus,” says CNN, “there’s a higher chance you may also become infected with pneumonia or the flu at the same time,” adding stress to your immune system.
Dear Grandma – A Few Tips for When You Finally Go for That Visit
So, the visit is finally scheduled. CNN’s Andrew includes a few final suggestions for grandparents visiting grandchildren, which we’ll summarize here:
- Don’t try to visit everybody. Take it slow. As one disease specialist told CNN, “Start off with a few people, or just one at a time. This is not the time to have a once-in-20-years family reunion.”
- “Children younger than 5 may have trouble adhering to social distancing measures,” says CNN. “If they (or you) can’t resist bear hugs or slobbery cheek kisses, consider visiting families with older children.”
- Meet outdoors. Choose “a park or garden where we can stay safely distant from others,” CNN “Transmission is unlikely outside, as long as we’re keeping 6 feet apart.” (But wear a mask anyway.)
- Be patient. “These guidelines aren’t ideal, and we’ve never had to do anything like this before,” Andrew writes. “But if we take these measures now, we’ll do our part to stop the spread of coronavirus. And when this pandemic is through, we can bring on the bear hugs again.” Now there’s something to look forward to!
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at www.cnn.com)