Grandparenting in the time of COVID

“COVID EXILE”

The “COVID exile” has hit older adults particularly hard, adding isolation and depression to their high risk of dying from the virus.

This is especially so for the 70 million grandparents who have suddenly been cut off from their grandchildren, a major source of joy and affection.

Not only are daily lives diminished, but time is ticking. Children grow and change. No contact means missing out. And many older adults, especially those already in frail health, fear they could never see their grandchildren again.

If quality of life—having access to true delight—is more important to your loved one than safety, consider together the relative risks of in-person contact. Here are some guidelines:

Maximize safety. The safest are short visits, preferably outdoors, with masks, handwashing, and maintaining a six-foot distance. As bad weather increases, indoor visiting may be necessary. But it increases the risk. The fewer the number of people and the larger and more ventilated the room, the safer the visit.

 Health and age of the older adult. Those over 85 are most at risk. The CDC reports added risk for those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes (Type 2), heart disease, obesity, sickle cell anemia, and compromised immune systems. Asthma and high blood pressure also increase the risk of getting sicker with COVID.

Health and exposure of the child. What makes interacting with grandchildren risky is that they can be infected without showing symptoms. Absolutely forego a visit if the child has a fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, or body aches. Children can bring other illnesses, such as cold or flu. Make sure they are current on their immunizations. Children are typically exposed to more people. If a child is attending in person school or day care, a visit is riskier than if a child has had little to no outside contact in the previous 14 days. Children are also less able to follow guidelines. Social distancing is hard for all ages, especially teens. Masks are impractical with children younger than two years.

Is travel required for a visit? If so, check out the viral transmission rates in both communities. If one is high, reconsider the visit. Avoiding airports is wise. Car trips are safer. But hotels, restaurants, and public restrooms require extra care. Consider quarantining for 14 days before the journey so everyone’s exposure is low. A negative test before a visit may ease anxiety, but a test is only a snapshot in time. A person can get infected an hour later.

Source: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care, LLC