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Mom Refuses to Be Safe



"My mom is convinced that COVID-19 is just the flu and that there’s no real need to be concerned. She is in her 90s and thinks that since she’s never contracted the flu, it is highly unlikely that she’ll get this newfangled virus everyone is talking about. She simply does not believe there is a serious threat to her health.

She has always been a very healthy lady, so maybe she’s right? It’s possible she could survive a bout with COVID-19. But I think she’s a little loony. She’s completely ignoring all medical advice and wants to socialize like she always has. What should I say to her?"



I’m not sure if your mother is “loony” or not, but I strongly believe she does not understand the risk. The mortality rate for individuals her age that contract the virus is quite high. In all reports I have seen, older individuals fare far worse than younger folks. Early reporting from China, New York and other hot spots shows a death rate in the teens for those 90 and older. A disease with a death rate of 10% or higher is a disease I want to avoid getting.

Now maybe your mother feels that she is unlikely to be in the 10% or so that would die from the virus at her age. She may be right, but she just doesn’t know for sure. It’s important to look at her health objectively. Is she overweight, or does she have high blood pressure or diabetes? If she has any health issues like these, her risk is greater than the average person. Most who are lucky enough to live into their 90s have some comorbidities, and if she does, her risk for dying from COVID-19 goes up.

Even that information may not be enough to convince her that she shouldn’t socialize as normal. After all, she may feel that she doesn’t have much life left, and doesn’t want to waste it. Those holding this attitude are less likely to wear masks, wash their hands properly or social distance.

You may have to make peace with your mother’s choices at this point and hope that those around her are more reasoned in their approach to prevention. Provide her with information, masks, soap and your wishes for her, and then accept the decisions she makes. Unless she is under the care of a guardian, she will decide how she conducts her life.

It is difficult for all of us to navigate living during this pandemic. I don’t believe that life can return to normal at this time without great risk, particularly for those in her age group.

Good luck with mom, and be safe.


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