As an older person, how can I reasonably weigh my COVID risks in order to live my best life?

Staying Safe

Make a plan: What activities you will and won’t do, and what you’ll do when you get COVID.

As the only member of Those Nerdy Girls who is over 60 (I’m 67.), I really feel this one. A recent article in The Atlantic, “Life Is Worse for Older People Now,” (see link below) made me do some hard thinking on how I choose to navigate my life as a senior during this phase of COVID.

In addition to being 67, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and am on a medication that suppresses my immune system. As Sharon Brangman, a geriatrician at SUNY Upstate University Hospital, stated so well in this article, “Everybody is trying to figure out what is the best way to function, to try to have some level of everyday life and activity, but also keep your risk of getting sick as low as possible.”My advice can be easily summarized: Make a plan.

In order to reduce stress about my daily life, I have two plans: Plan 1 – Decide in advance what types of activities I will and won’t do. And Plan 2 – Know what I will do if (more like when at this point) I contract COVID. Having these plans to fall back on is really helpful to me. Of course, everyone will have a different plan, but it’s *having* the plan that’s important. Write it down. Read it when a situation arises.

Be flexible; no plan is perfect.

Plan 1: Decide in advance what types of activities you will and won’t do. I look at this list as not unlike the Risk/Reward Ratio used in investing.

The question I ask myself: Is the reward of the activity worth the risk of contracting COVID? This is obviously a very personal calculation that each person needs to make for themselves.

Note: A big part of my personal decision-making is based on the fact that I’m fully vaccinated and boosted. That leaves me confident that my chances of hospitalization and death are dramatically reduced if I do contract COVID. (See links below.)

Here are some examples from my list:

👩‍👧 Will I see my 7-yr-old great niece even though she goes to public school every day and has lots of exposure to COVID and other infectious diseases? Yep.

🎶 Will I go to an indoor concert or any large indoor event? Nope.

✈️ Will I travel? Yep, but I’ll wear a high quality mask on planes and in airports.

🥪 Will I have lunch with my fully vaccinated and boosted friends? Yep. But I’ll try to go to restaurants with patios or go during off hours/days when indoor dining.

🏠 Will I have close friends over or go to their houses? Yep.

Note: When developing my list, I found it helpful to sometimes run my decisions by my husband or another trusted friend to see if they thought I was being overly cautious or risky.

Plan 2 – Know what you will do if/when you contract COVID.

My plan:

💊 Know how and where to get Paxlovid as soon as possible after testing positive. The medication needs to be started within five days of testing positive, and the sooner the better.

It’s important to note that if you are on Medicare or Medicaid, you will need to contact your clinician to provide a prescription for you.

For those *not* on either of those plans, a pharmacist can usually prescribe it without the need to contact a clinician so you can call your local pharmacy.

Note: Although some are wary of “rebound,” rebound happens without Paxlovid as well, and Paxlovid keeps people out of the hospital – and alive. See some links below re Paxlovid.

🫱 Have plenty of home tests on hand so I can readily test any time I experience possible COVID symptoms or have a known exposure. I never assume, “It’s just allergies.” Order free tests here.

More on acquiring tests through insurance here.

Check here to see if tests you have on hand have extended expiration dates. All of mine did!

😌 Take a deep breath. Keep calm and trust my vaccine protection.

🤒 Have a sick plan that includes foods, fluids, and over-the-counter meds you might need. Pre-designate a friend, neighbor, or family member that can help with supplies and/or checking in with you via text or phone if you live alone.

✔️ Follow the protocols re isolation, testing, etc.

All you need to know is here.

As always. . . Stay safe. Stay well.

And make a plan!


Nerdy Girl Gretchen

Additional Links:

The Atlantic: Life Is Worse for Older People Now

Yale Medicine: 13 Things To Know About Paxlovid, the Latest COVID-19 Pill

What’s one of the most underused but effective tools we have against COVID-19?

CDC: COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Update

CDC: Monitoring COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Vaccination Status

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