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I'm Worried About the Coronavirus



"My dad is 90 years old and lives alone. I’m the one who cares for him by cleaning, shopping, running errands and all things related to managing him in his home.

Dad has had a heart attack in the past and has high blood pressure. He eats what he wants, so he doesn’t have the best diet. He gets around okay with a cane, but is not running any marathons. I guess for his age, he is doing reasonably well.

He’s not around other people very much other than family. My siblings and the grandchildren are his only visitors.

My worry is this coronavirus. How do I protect him?" - READER



You have a reasonable concern about a virus that’s on the minds of the entire world right now. Early reports say the virus has the greatest impact on the elderly. While that could change as more information becomes available, that mirrors other flu-like viruses over time.

This is the reason doctors recommend flu vaccination for everyone over 65 years of age. In fact, many healthcare providers now require flu vaccination for all employees working for them regardless of age. While the coronavirus is not in this season’s flu recipe, infectious disease specialists believe they do lessen the impact of other flu-like viruses. If your father hasn’t had the flu vaccine this season, make that your first priority. It’s not too late as the flu season goes well into late spring.

I recommend you visit the website for the Center for Disease Control ( for the most up-to-date information. There is no one—not a politician, newscaster or neighbor—who will have more accurate info about the coronavirus and its spread.

For all communicable diseases, the best approach is knowledge and then prevention. Far too frequently, we react without full knowledge. Your father’s situation may be low-risk because his exposure to the general public is very limited. The concern is the family members who will visit him. Sick family members with a “simple cold” may still get close to him.

We are too polite for our own good sometimes. As Dad’s caregiver, step in and protect him preemptively before anyone is sick and the coronavirus hits your region. It’s all about prevention.

Let your family know you want to protect Dad from disease. Even if it could be mildly annoying to them, it could be potentially deadly for him. Provide them kind, gentle guidance by explaining your intent. Ask them not to visit Dad with any type of respiratory illness, or if they’ve been exposed to someone who has the coronavirus, because you can be a carrier of the virus before you even exhibit symptoms.

Explain your concern to Dad, and ask him to wash his hands with soap and water before eating and when arriving home from any public place. Ask him not to approach anyone with cold-like symptoms. This is also a good time to visit general health habits, like adequate sleep, healthy eating and exercise. The healthier Dad is the less impact any virus will have should he contract it.

You’re wise to think about this now and prepare for what seems to be a possibility. Educating yourself, your father and family members gives him the chance for the best possible outcome.


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