Saturday, July 25, 2020

Caring for a Sick Spouse When You are Still Healthy

Now that my husband and I are both in our 70s, we have known several couples who have had to face a difficult dilemma.  One of them may have a serious illness and require more help than their spouse can give them without help.  Since some survivors of Covid-19 are experiencing serious ongoing health problems, such as kidney failure, heart disease, neurological problems, and cognitive decline, this problem could become even more common. What should you do if your spouse becomes too ill for you to care for them by yourself at home?  What are your choices?  This is something every aging couple needs to consider and plan for.

Can You Manage Their Care in Your Home?

If your home will meet the needs of the person who is ill, and you have someone you can call on to help your spouse shower, eat, and use the bathroom, then you may be able to keep them at home. Are you able to lift your spouse or transfer them to a wheelchair, while not letting them fall?  Whether or not you can manage their care at home may depend on how sick the person is, and how much they are capable of doing for themselves.  It may also depend on how much assistance you can round up to help you.  Are there adult children who can help? Have you considered making some home modifications so it is easier for them to shower, or could you purchase equipment that will help you lift or move your spouse? Is there an adult day-care center in your community where your ill spouse can go a few times a week, allowing you to run errands without worrying about leaving them alone?  Can you afford to hire a part-time caregiver?  With enough assistance, both of you may be able to manage just fine in your current home.  However, do not feel guilty if you cannot do everything by yourself. It is okay to admit you need help.

Should You Move Your Spouse to Assisted Living?

If you are not able to get the help you need in order to keep your ill spouse at home, another option is to move them to an Assisted Living or Memory Care facility.  This is especially common when they have severe dementia.  They may be at risk of wandering off; or they could try to cook and start a fire. They may try to drive or do something else that could endanger themselves or others.  Eventually, it could become nearly impossible to leave the person alone. In these situations, it may be necessary for them to be moved to a facility to keep them safe and where they can get the full-time care and attention they need.

Nearly every community in the United States has a variety of nursing homes and assisted living facilities available. Before you need one in an emergency, check out the ones in your area and find out if they could meet the needs of your family member.  Do they have skilled nursing available?  Do they offer memory care?  Do they offer activities which will interest your family member, such as entertainment, a swimming pool, art classes, or a putting green?  Do they encourage patients to be as active as possible? Do they offer physical therapy? Will it be convenient for you and other relatives to visit them in this facility?  Has the facility arranged a safe meeting area for residents, so they do not become exposed to Covid-19 by outsiders?

Perhaps, most important, you will want to consider whether or not you will be able to afford this facility.  Do you have long-term care insurance to cover the expense, or will you qualify for Medicaid?  Do you have enough savings to pay for it?  What is your plan?

It may be helpful to read something like:  "Choosing an Assisted Living Facility."(Ad)

Consider Moving to an Assisted Living Facility with Your Spouse

Several couples we know have moved into a care facility together, even if only one of them needs extra care.  When they made the decision to live together in one of these facilities, it often brought relief to them both.  The responsibility of being the total caregiver for a sick spouse is removed from the shoulders of the healthier spouse.  Neither person has to buy groceries, prepare meals, do dishes or clean their residence. The healthy spouse is free to come and go as they please, while the sick spouse is cared for.  The sick spouse no longer feels guilty for being a burden on their partner.  At the same time, they continue to live together and spend time with each other.

Live Together in a Continuing Care Community

The most common way for a couple to live together in a care facility is to either purchase or rent an apartment or cottage in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, also referred to as CCRCs.  These residential communities are designed specifically for this kind of situation. Here's a brief description of them:

Buy into a Continuing Care Retirement Community - Some types of continuing care facilities require you to purchase a condo or cottage in their community.  You bring your own furniture and decorate your home as you please.  You move in while one or both of you are still in somewhat good health ... at least ambulatory or able to walk under your own power.  In addition to the purchase price, you also pay a monthly fee.  These communities usually have their own skilled nursing facilities and memory care facilities where you will continue to be cared for when you can no longer manage in your own condo. They are called Continuing Care Retirement Communities because they guarantee that they will care for you for the rest of your life, regardless of your needs, as long as you or your family continue to make the monthly payments.

You start by living independently in your own apartment.  If necessary, you will eventually be cared for in their skilled nursing or memory care facility.  If your total lifetime medical expenses cost more than Medicare and your insurance will cover, plus the amount agreed to in your purchase contract, the excess amount is deducted from the resale price of your condo when you die.  A percentage of the remaining value of the sales price is passed on to your heirs.  This type of Continuing Care Retirement Community, which requires you to buy your residence, typically does not accept long-term care insurance or Medicaid to pay the monthly fee, but there may be some exceptions.

Rent an Apartment in a Continuing Care Retirement Community - Another option is to move into the type of continuing care community which allows you to rent on a monthly basis without the need to actually buy a condo.  You do not own your unit, but you are able to bring your own furniture and decorate it as you please.  The basic monthly rental will vary, depending upon the size of your apartment, with extra fees assessed based on the level of care you need.  These communities may accept Medicare and any other insurance you have as payment for your medical expenses, and Medicaid for your long-term care, if you qualify for those programs.  They will also accept long-term care insurance or private payments.  Otherwise, they are very similar to the type of CCRC which requires you to buy a condo.

Like the CCRCs which require you to purchase your home, you start by living independently in your own apartment.  If necessary, you will eventually be cared for in their skilled nursing or memory care facility.  It is very important to find out the base price as well as the assessments charged for the extra help your spouse may need, such as assistance taking a shower.  Your cost of living in these facilities will increase when your medical needs become more serious. You need to take that into consideration when you move into one.

Cost for Two People to Live in a Rental Continuing Care Apartment

Since I was curious about what it would cost if my husband and I decided to move together into a continuing care community, I decided to get information about it from one of the facilities in our neighborhood.  The one I chose was Las Palmas in Laguna Woods, because it is owned and operated by SRG, a company which operates senior living communities all over the United States.  I assume their model and pricing will vary somewhat from place to place, but is generally similar.  Below is what I learned.  I rounded the numbers up to the nearest $100, since prices are likely to rise each year. These were their 2019 prices.

Typical Rental Fees for Couple in Independent Care / Assisted Living

Rental for a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom independent living apartment:  $3900 to $5400 a month

Second resident (who does not need assisted living care):  $900 a month

Community Service Entrance Fee:  one time charge of $3000 

Extra care fees:

Level 1 Care for one person - additional $900 a month
Level 2 Care for one person - additional $1,500 a month
Level 3 Care for one person - additional $1,800 a month

Total Monthly Expenses for Two

This assisted living facility is in Southern California, near Laguna Beach, so it is probably more expensive than facilities in other parts of the country.

Based on their fees, however, a couple with one sick family member and one healthy one, living together in this continuing care facility, with one person needing Level 2 or intermediate extra care, would spend about $7,000 a month for both of them.  Some of my friends have told me that is approximately what they are paying to live together in other, similar facilities in our area, so this seems like a common price in Southern California.  Most people would NOT need to pay all of that out of pocket, however.  Depending on your situation, a sizeable portion of those costs might be covered by either Medicaid or your long-term care insurance.  The remaining living expenses could be covered by your Social Security benefits or other retirement income.

The $7,000 monthly fee would include rent, three meals a day for both of you, utilities (except phones), maid service, most activities, and entertainment for two people, plus necessary medical care for the ill spouse.  This is only $900 to $1400 more than the cost for one person to live alone in a studio apartment in the same facility, so the healthy spouse can live with their partner for very little extra. 

Deciding Financially How to Care for Your Spouse

Whatever you decide, finances will probably play a large part in your decision.   As you can see, in some cases it may be more affordable for a couple to live together at a continuing care facility than to live separately in two different locations.  In other cases, it may be less expensive for the healthy spouse to remain in their current home, while using Medicaid or long-term care insurance to pay for the sick spouse to stay in a skilled nursing or memory care facility.  In fact, that might be the best choice if there is reason to believe that the ill spouse will recover and be able to move back into your home in the future, for example, if they are recovering from Covid-19.

You need to be realistic when you consider how seriously ill your loved one is. If they have advanced dementia, and you cannot afford memory care for them, it might help to read "The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, other Dementias, and Memory Loss."  (Ad) It contains an extensive amount of information about how to make it easier to care for someone with dementia in your own home.

You should also check out different facilities in your area.  Find out whether or not you and your spouse are likely to qualify for financial assistance from Medicaid.  Many people are surprised to find out they can qualify, even if they own a home or business. If not, see if you can purchase a long-term care insurance policy while you are both still healthy.  There are also life insurance policies which can be converted to long-term care insurance, so you can use the benefits while you are alive.

Plan Ahead

Make a plan now for how you and your spouse will cover the cost of care, should one of you become ill.  Whether you decide to keep your spouse at home, move them to an assisted living facility, or both of you move to a continuing care facility, it is wise to investigate local facilities and have a plan before one of you is diagnosed with a serious illness.  It will be much more difficult if you have to make a last minute decision.

If you are interested in learning more about where to retire, common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit:  Las Palmas SRG Senior Living Community in Laguna Woods, CA

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Covid-19: Avoid People You Love - You Could be Contagious and Not Know It

We are safer from Covid-19 outside, but avoid crowds!
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with Covid-19?  By mid-July, 2020, approximately 1% of Americans have had positive test results.  It is possible that the actual number of cases may be several times the official number, so you or someone you know could be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, and contagious, at any time.

Personally, I know of several people who have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Four of them were Caucasian males in their 50s and 60s.  Two of them died and their families are grieving, shocked by how suddenly and unexpectedly they lost a loved one.  Two of them spent several days in a hospital and are now recovering at home.  One had well-controlled diabetes, until he was exposed to Covid-19. The others were healthy prior to their diagnosis, and thought they were at low risk. Just this week, another woman I know shared on Facebook that she, too, had been diagnosed with Covid-19 after a visit to see her family in Arizona. Since none of us have a natural immunity to this virus, we are all at risk of getting it.  

Could You Give Someone Covid-19?

In the July 20, 2020 issue of Time Magazine, there was a moving essay by Belinda Luscombe titled "We think we gave our neighbor Covid-19."  Belinda lives in a New York City loft and briefly spoke with a neighbor who was moving.  Although the neighbor was wearing a mask when he stopped by for a quick conversation, neither she nor her husband were wearing masks.  Two days later, Belinda and her husband were diagnosed with Covid-19. Two weeks later, their neighbor texted them to say he had it, too. At the time she penned her essay, Belinda's neighbor was in the hospital and she was feeling guilty and worried that she and her husband might have given this disease to their neighbor before they had symptoms.  She now feels remorseful that during a brief encounter, they may have caused a dear friend to develop a serious illness or, possibly, die.  She regrets not putting on a mask during that short conversation.

Asymptomatic People Can Carry Covid-19

One of the most worrisome aspects of this coronavirus is that asymptomatic people can shed the virus without realizing it.  They can pass it to others, even when they feel perfectly healthy.  In fact, it is believed that one 25 year-old woman in China passed the virus to 71 other people after returning to China from the United States.  She passed it to them after a single elevator ride, during which she did not encounter anyone else. How did that happen?  After her flight back to China from the U.S., she promised authorities that she would self-quarantine until she had a negative result on a Covid-19 test.  She went straight home and took the elevator to her apartment once, where she remained quarantined, ultimately learning that she had tested positive.  Other people riding the elevator later that day became infected.  Those people attended a party a few days later and exposed others.  Ultimately, 71 people were exposed, and all the cases were traced back to that one woman and her single ride by herself on the elevator.  This disease is extremely contagious. You can read more of the details about this incident here:

A Woman Gave Coronavirus to 71 People

It is a thought-provoking article about the risk we all face, particularly in poorly ventilated indoor spaces which could be used by other people.

Death is Not the Only Risk

Some people may feel that as long as they survive this virus, they have nothing to worry about.  However, there are other consequences which are also very serious.  According to a WebMD article on the coronavirus, survivors can expect other problems, including:

"Liver problems or damage, heart problems, kidney damage, and dangerous blood clots, including in their legs, lungs, and arteries. Some clots may cause a stroke."

"A few children and teens have been admitted to the hospital with an inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to the new coronavirus. Symptoms include a fever, rash, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems. The syndrome, now being referred to as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C is similar to toxic shock or to Kawasaki disease, a condition in children that causes inflammation in blood vessels."

Some people who have survived continue to experience extreme fatigue and other health issues long after their initial symptoms.  There have been reports of people remaining sick for months. Some have experienced neurological problems, including cognitive decline, brain fog, and nervous system disorders. Some have experienced hair loss, shortness of breath and memory loss. Unfortunately, the damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs is likely to be permanent.

In other cases, patients have recovered and tested negative, only to become sick again. Doctors believe that some of them may have become reinfected just a couple of months after recovering from their initial bout with the disease. Others may have never fully recovered, despite their negative test results.

If these types of symptoms continue to happen to a large percentage of survivors, they will be unable to return to work again for months, if ever, and this will do further harm to our economy.

The United States cannot afford to let this disease run wild.  It would do too much damage to our country, as well as devastate many families emotionally. Already, an estimated 1.5 million people are grieving the loss of someone in their family who has died.  This number will only grow.

How Can You Avoid Getting or Passing on Covid-19?

Everyone has heard the basic rules repeated over and over.  We should all stay home as much as possible, wear a face mask (Ad) when we must go out, and wash our hands frequently.  However, many people are beginning to get bored with this strict regimen and are starting to cheat. Others never really followed it to begin with.  Some people even have gone so far as to believe the virus is a hoax which cannot hurt them.

As a result, people are unintentionally exposing their friends and family to this disease, causing a huge spike in cases over the past few weeks.

Why do we risk the lives of the people we love? We rationalize that we know these friends well, or we rarely get to see them, or we are sure they have been careful, so it will be safe to get together.  We miss seeing our adult children, grandkids and other family members, and can't wait to hug them whenever we do see them. After all, we are certain that we are healthy.  We feel fine. We tell ourselves that enjoying a meal with friends in a restaurant should not be a problem.  We don't want to be rude by turning down invitations to weddings, birthday parties, and other special events. We attend the funerals of friends and family. Sadly, in too many cases, people have been deceiving themselves and risking the lives of the people they care about the most.

We really need to hold firm until this virus either wears itself out, or we reach herd immunity (after 70% of people have had it), or there is an effective vaccine.  Perhaps we will eventually benefit from all these factors, and we can get back to normal and move on.  Until then, this virus will continue to exact a heavy toll on people we care about.

Meanwhile, the best protection for you and others is to avoid as many people as possible ... especially the ones you love!  It is particularly dangerous to be indoors with anyone you do not live with.  If you must have someone inside your home, you should both wear a mask and stay as far apart as possible.  If you have a repairman in your home, keep your distance and even consider going into a separate room while they work.  After they leave, disinfect everything they may have touched and, if possible, open doors and windows to air out the space.

Outdoor Spaces Appear to Be Safest

Several studies have indicated that your risk of catching or transmitting Covid-19 outdoors seems to be significantly lower, especially if you maintain an adequate physical distance.  That is because the droplets and aerosol spray which people spread when they talk, sing, cough or sneeze are less likely to reach other people when they are outdoors.  On the other hand, when indoors, the aerosolized droplets can remain in an enclosed space long enough to infect people for hours after the carrier has left!

Even when outdoors, however, it is wise to stay at least six feet or more away from anyone you do not live with, and wear a face mask. According to Time Magazine, July 20, 2020, a facemask "when used properly, can reduce transmission by somewhere between 50% and 85%."  If you choose to wear an additional face shield, it can increase your protection even more, particularly from the direct spray of a cough or sneeze.  Keep plenty of clean face masks and clear plastic face shields on hand so you are prepared for any encounter. (Ad)  Have a designated outdoor space where you and others can socialize, while maintaining a safe distance.  In this way, you can still see your family or a friend or two, as long as everyone is willing to respect the rules, stay outdoors, and play it safe.

Until this virus is defeated, we should treat everyone as though we have a very contagious disease, and they do, too!  After all, we could be right.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit: Beach photo taken by author

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Covid-19 will Lower Social Security Benefits for People Born in 1960

Congress Needs to Fix Social Security Problems (AARP)
The Covid-19 pandemic is going to hit Baby Boomers hard, even if they never catch the disease.  Some of them saw their 401(k), IRA, and other retirement plans drop in value when the stock market declined earlier this year.  Others wonder where they can safely get a fair return on their savings, because interest rates are so low. A significant number of older workers lost their jobs this year, and some were forced into early retirement, requiring them to take their Social Security benefits years earlier than they planned.  Some have chosen to retire early because they are afraid to go back to work during the pandemic. All these events are likely to affect their retirement income for the rest of their lives.

What most of us did not know is that people who happened to be born in 1960 are are going to be affected more than everyone else.  This is because of the way Social Security benefits are calculated, according to an article in Forbes by Janet Novack, titled "Covid-19 Side Effect: Social Security Retirement Benefits for Boomers born in 1960 Will Take a Big Hit."

How Much Will People Born in 1960 Lose in Benefits?

Forbes reports that, "median income workers born in that year, assuming they claim Social Security benefits at the 'normal' retirement age of 67, will lose $2,511 a year in annual benefits."  This is according to calculations by Andrew Biggs,  an American Enterprise Institute resident scholar, Forbes contributor, and former principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration. "Assuming those average income workers collect benefits for 18 years, the present value of their lost lifetime benefits would be a hefty $45,859," he estimates.  "High earners, with their bigger benefits and longer average lives, would see annual benefits claimed at age 67 cut by $4,142 a year and suffer lifetime losses of $86,177 over 23 years. Low earners would lose $1,571 a year or $24,121 over a 13-year life expectancy, Biggs calculates."

Why Will People Born in 1960 Lose More Benefits than Others?

The reason for this loss is based on a very complicated way that benefits are calculated.  Essentially, they will be harmed as an indirect result of the high number of unemployed people in 2020.  Because of unemployment, the Average Wage Index (AWI) for 2020 is expected to be about 9.8% lower than in recent years, and this will permanently reduce benefits for people born in 1960.  This group is made up of people who are turning 60 years of age in 2020.

Whenever the Average Wage Index (AWI) drops, it permanently lowers the Social Security benefits for people turning 60 during that year. This is because the worker's future benefit amount is based on an average of their 35 highest earning years, adjusted by the AWI for the year they turn 60.  If the AWI is higher than prior years, their benefits will be adjusted higher. If the AWI drops, however, their future benefits will be reduced.  Even if the AWI moves higher again during the years after you turn 60, your benefits will not be adjusted up. The adjustment is only made the year you turn 60.  In 2020, it will apply to people born in 1960.

What Can You Do About the Lowered Social Security Benefits?

The majority of people who will be affected by the lower AWI in 2020 have no idea that it could permanently reduce the amount of Social Security they will receive when they retire.  As a result, there has not been a large outpouring of concern expressed by the affected people to members of Congress.  People who will be harmed, however, need to let their Representatives and Senators know how this adjustment will hurt them, so Congress can correct the problem.  We are fortunate the staff at Forbes have pointed out this problem.  In their article "Covid-19 Side Effect: Social Security Retirement Benefits for Boomers born in 1960 Will Take a Big Hit," they even list the specific steps Congress could take to rectify the problem. Hopefully, they will pay attention.

The Bigger Problem for Current and Future Retirees

This issue for people born in 1960 is part of a bigger problem for retirees, and both senior citizens and Congress will need to address these issues in the coming years.

Individuals are going to have to decide what changes they may need to make to their investments in retirement plans, particularly if their 401(k), IRA and other retirement accounts have suffered significant losses.  In addition, the income they can earn off their savings from dividends and interest may not be as great as they had anticipated when they were doing their financial planning.  Everyone needs to learn everything they can about how Social Security and Medicare work, so they can maximize their personal benefits. 

Congress needs to decide how they are going to address shortfalls in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, which are currently expected to be gone in little more than a decade.  As part of addressing these problems, they should also address any other glitches they find in the programs, such as the one described above for people who were born in 1960.  Most Americans are dependent on these programs either for all or a substantial portion of their retirement income. As a result, everyone should contact their Senators and Representatives and pressure them to address these problems as soon as possible.

With an election coming up in November, before you vote you may want to contact your current Senators and Representatives to see how they intend to address these problems, and then contact their opponents to learn the approach they favor, should they be elected.  Very few things will affect older Americans more than the future of Social Security and Medicare, so you want to vote carefully.

If you are interested in learning more about Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical problems as we age, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit: Google Images from AARP

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Covid-19 and other Infectious Diseases: How to Lower Your Risk

As everyone knows by now, in the spring of 2020, a new coronavirus named Covid-19 swept around the world.  By July, over 525,000 people had died of the disease worldwide, and approximately 130,000 of those deaths were in the United States.  Since then, deaths have continued to rise daily.

Thousands of additional deaths from this disease have been estimated, but not been counted in the official tallies, because most of the early deaths, before the pandemic was recognized, were recorded as pneumonia or influenza.  Many other people died at home, and their deaths were not listed in the official numbers.  Some nursing homes still do not list the cause of death for their residents as Covid-19, when the deceased person also had other serious illnesses.  As a result, we may never know how many people actually died of Covid-19.  By the time the pandemic is over and a vaccine has been distributed, deaths are likely to exceed one million worldwide and at least a quarter of a million in the United States.

Of course, Covid-19 is not the only contagious disease we need to worry about.  We humans are also highly susceptible to other common communicable diseases including influenza, norovirus (the stomach flu), meningitis, whooping cough, MRSA, tuberculosis, strep throat, and the common cold.  The good news is that the steps we take to protect ourselves from Covid-19 may also protect us from some of these other illnesses. What are some actions we can take to keep ourselves safe?

How to Lower Your Risk of Covid-19 and Other Infectious Diseases

Stay home and Stay Safe - This is the best policy for anyone who is over the age of 70, or is immune compromised, or who is already fighting a chronic disease.  This could include a child fighting cancer, a young adult who is a smoker, a middle aged man with diabetes, or a senior citizen with chronic kidney disease or a history of heart attacks.  If you fall into a high risk group, you should stay home as often as possible and, in particular, avoid large indoor gatherings, which is where you are the most vulnerable.  This means avoiding bars, houses of worship, weddings, funerals, parties in a private home, concerts, sporting events, movie theaters, indoor restaurants and other places where it may be difficult to maintain a comfortable distance between you and everyone else.

Whenever possible, any gathering you choose to attend should be held outside, with only a few people, and the ability for individuals or couples to stay six feet or further from others attending the same event.  For example, a family barbecue could be arranged with separate tables, separate food, and separate utensils.  Ideally, people should sit much more than six feet apart, when possible.

Maintain at least a six foot distance from other people, and further, when possible -  Most of us cannot stay home all the time.  We may have to go to work, shop for food, get our car repaired, see a doctor, or handle other business.  We may also occasionally go to an event we cannot avoid.  As much as possible, we want to avoid inhaling the air being expelled from other people. If you are around people who are speaking, yelling, coughing or sneezing, you will want to stay as far away from them as possible, especially if you are indoors.  When people are excited and speaking loudly, coughing, or singing, they can expel large amounts of air.  A virus can travel 10 to 25 feet, especially after a sneeze, and hang in the air indoors for hours.  Air conditioning can further circulate it. This can happen even when the person carrying a disease does not know they are sick.  They could be a "super-carrier," despite appearing to be perfectly healthy.  In order to minimize your exposure, you have to assume that everyone you pass could be carrying either Covid-19, influenza, tuberculosis, or another contagious disease. 

Stop Shaking Hands and Hugging People - Of course, you can still hug and cuddle with someone you live with. However, stop touching people who do not live with you, including grandchildren and other relatives.  It is far better to keep some distance between you.  Greet your friends and neighbors with a smile, a nod and a friendly wave.

Wear a face mask when in public - Wearing face masks reduces the distance the virus can travel in a conversation, cough, or sneeze. A variety of styles and colors are available.  If you wear a mask and the other people around you are also wearing masks, everyone has dramatically decreased the risk that any of you could spread a respiratory disease to one another.  Wearing a face mask is a compassionate, thoughtful way to treat other people. 

Another option is to wear a face shield.  They may be a more comfortable option when walking outdoors, especially if you avoid being near other people.  You can even find hats with face shields attached, like the one I am wearing in this photo, while walking on a nearly deserted beach.  They come in a variety of styles and colors. When I am outdoors and no one else is nearby, I feel safe with just this hat with the detachable face shield. Indoors, I always add a face mask. (Ad)

Cover your mouth with your elbow when you sneeze or cough - This simple move will decrease the risk that you are spreading a virus.  It reduces the distance a virus can travel, and you will not be coughing into your hand and then touching doorknobs, handrails, elevator buttons, and similar items other people may touch.

Wash your hands often - Although most people get Covid-19 from inhaling particles containing the virus, researchers believe it is also possible to touch something with the virus on it, and then transfer it to your nose, mouth or eyes, giving it a foothold in your body.  When you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitizer to kill any virus you may have picked up.  It is a good idea to always carry some with you in a small container.  Make sure it contains at least 65% alcohol, and do not leave it in a hot car. (Ad)

Try not to touch your face - That may seem like an impossible habit to break, because most of us touch our faces several times a minute.  However, the less you touch your face, the lower your risk of accidentally infecting yourself.

Disinfect everything you touch frequently - Since it is so hard to avoid touching our faces, it is also wise to keep the things we touch as clean as possible.  Use alcohol wipes to clean electronic items we touch frequently, such as our cell phone and computer keyboard.  Use disinfectant cleaner on other items such as doorknobs, refrigerator handles, and similar items. If the items you touch are clean, and you also wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face, you will have sharply decreased your risk of picking up any infectious diseases with your hands. (Ad)

If you take the above actions, you may not completely avoid getting Covid-19 or another infectious disease, but you will have substantially lowered your risk and, hopefully, will enjoy a generally healthier life.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are interested in reading more about common medical issues as we age, where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Photo credits: Pixabay