However, it occurred to me that everyone should know how to be prepared for a period of self-quarantine in case they are exposed to any contagious disease. In particular, seniors should be ready to survive at home alone for at least two weeks, whether it is because of a virus in their community, or as a result of some other type of disruptive disaster.
Facts About the Coronavirus Covid-19
First, everyone should be aware of what we currently know about the novel coronavirus called Covid-19 as of early March, 2020.
The older and sicker you already are, the more likely you are to become seriously ill or die from Covid-19. Children are rarely seriously affected, although they can be carriers of the virus. Some babies have been diagnosed with the virus shortly after birth, which is a concern for expectant mothers.
The overall risk of dying from this disease is estimated by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control to be about 2.3 percent. The World Health Organization actually believes the rate may be 3.4 percent. This makes it appear to be 23 to 34 times more lethal than regular influenza, which has a death rate of 0.1 percent. However, the death rate for Covid-19 should decrease as the number of people are tested and many are discovered to only have a mild case. The reason more people currently die from the flu is because it has been around much longer and millions of people get it every year. Eventually, the Covid-19 may become more common, too. Hopefully, before that happens, we will have a vaccine and more effective treatments than we have now, and these interventions will lower the death rate.
Until then, senior citizens should know that people in their 70s have an estimated 8% death rate, when they get the Covid-19; people in their 80s have a 15% death rate. Older patients are much more vulnerable than younger adults.
The estimated death rates for people with certain underlying disease are:
Heart disease - 10.5%
Diabetes - 7.3%
Chronic Respiratory Disease - 6.3%
High blood pressure - 6%
Cancer - 5.6%
As mentioned above, these numbers should decrease once we are able to test people sooner and quickly get them treatment.
The good news is that the vast majority of people survive this illness, even if they are elderly and have an underlying condition. However, if you do have one of these conditions, it is wise to be extra careful by practicing good hand washing hygiene and practicing social distancing, which is explained in greater detail below.
Once you feel you have done everything you can, then relax and continue to enjoy your life. Stress can lower your immunity, so do not let yourself become too anxious.
How to Minimize Your Exposure to Covid-19
The first thing you want to do is minimize your exposure to this coronavirus. You have almost certainly seen the news reports about thoroughly washing your hands, which is always a good idea. Some people, especially those with sensitive skin, have also found it helpful to wear gloves when they are in public. You can either use disposable gloves, (Ad) or fabric gloves which can be removed and laundered when you return home. You may want to purchase several pairs. Perhaps we can make it stylish again to wear attractive gloves whenever we are out in public! Recently, the Queen of England has been spotted wearing gloves when she is in public. We may all want to follow her lead.
Experts also recommend that we practice a certain amount of reasonable social separation. This means avoid shaking hands, hugging others, using common cups in religious services, or spending time near people with obvious symptoms of a cold or the flu, such as coughing or sneezing. We may also want to avoid crowded spaces in which you are in close proximity to large groups of people. Older adults may want to avoid friends for a couple of weeks after they have been on a cruise or when they have recently returned from an overseas trip.
You do not need to completely isolate yourself from other people. Just practice reasonable self-defense. Hopefully, people who are sick will be thoughtful and stay home when they are not well.
How to Prepare for Self-Quarantine
Despite your best efforts, the time may come when you discover you have been in the vicinity of someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus or another highly infectious disease. If this happens to you, you need to be prepared to self-quarantine until you have been cleared by the experts. What do you need to have in your home in order to be prepared for a successful self-quarantine?
Keep at least a two to three week supply of the following items on hand at all times:
Canned, frozen and dry food, such as pasta, soup and frozen meals
Pet food, if you have a pet
Prescription medications and nutritional supplements
Toilet paper, tissues and paper towels
Soap, shampoo and personal hygiene products
Cleaning supplies, such as Clorox wipes, Lysol, laundry soap, etc. (Ad)
Spare batteries for any medical devices or entertainment items you have.
You do not need to hoard these things. Just have a two to three week supply of them on hand.
You may also want to keep a supply of a few other things:
Over-the-counter cough medicines, nasal sprays, and Advil (ibuprofen) (Ad) are good to have in your medicine cabinet, just in case you need them. Mild cases of the coronavirus can be treated at home with cold medicines, rest, and plenty of fluids. These medications only treat the symptoms; they do not cure the disease. The good news is that 80% of all cases of Covid-19 appear to be mild and people recover in a few weeks. However, if you have a dry cough and a temperature of over 104 F, or you start to have breathing problems, call your doctor and make arrangements to go to the emergency room. This could mean you have developed a severe form of the disease. Hospitals want you to call in advance so you can be isolated when you arrive.
You may also want to keep an assortment of items around the house to keep you busy while you are under quarantine, such as books or supplies for your favorite hobbies.
Remember that being self-quarantined does not mean you cannot enjoy gardening in your yard and getting some fresh air. Depending on what authorities have told you, you might even take a walk around the block, as long as you stay six feet or more away from other people. If you do go outside, this is when it would be thoughtful to wear a face mask, so you do not cough and expose someone else.
You can also stay in touch with friends and family through emails, phone calls, Facetime, and text. In fact, it is advisable to let your loved ones know how you are feeling and whether or not you are starting to get sick. It will reassure them if you are well, and allow them to seek help for you if you need it. It will also help keep you sane during this period of forced isolation! Being alone for too long can be very stressful for many people, so you need to stay connected. You may even arrange to contact someone once a day to confirm you are still OK. If they do not hear from you, give them permission to ask the police to do a welfare check on you.
What If You Run Low on Supplies?
Fortunately, we now live in an internet connected world. If you run short on supplies, you can order virtually anything you need online. You can order a pizza delivered to your home, or have groceries, medications, cleaning supplies, and almost anything else shipped to you by Amazon, Walmart, or a local store. Most pharmacies will mail your medications to you. Since you pay online, you can even have them leave everything outside your door, especially if you feel sick and want to avoid speaking with the delivery person. You can tape a note with instructions to your front door or, if you have the Ring doorbell, (Ad) you can use it to chat with them.
What is important to know is that you do not have to panic if you are unexpectedly quarantined, even if you were not prepared or you find yourself short on supplies. You can get virtually anything you need delivered to you within a day or two.
Avoid Being Scammed
Finally, you should not let yourself be scammed by people who want to cheat you by selling over-priced "Covid-19 Kits" and other products you do not need. There are reports that some on-line sellers are asking over $100 for a bottle of hand sanitizer or $20 for a face mask. You do not need either of these things during a home quarantine, and you certainly should not pay an unreasonable price for them. Even if you do need something, it is smart to look for the best possible price. Do not panic. Do not let yourself be cheated. All you really need are basic supplies, and you should not have to pay extra in order to get them. In most places, price gouging is against the law.
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