With at least two viable vaccine options on the horizon, coronavirus cases continue to soar, both in the United States and globally as all of us struggle to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. With much of the country, certainly including Massachusetts, heading into colder winter temperatures and increased indoor activities, the risk of contagion rises.
Statistics, grim in the spring, are becoming dire. According to The COVID Tracking Project, during late November the number of cases of the virus are spiking at over 180,000 daily until cumulative U.S. cases now exceed 12.2 million. Worst of all, well over a quarter of a million people in the U.S. have died of coronavirus.
As we all do our best to protect our families, Surprenant & Beneski has compiled some information to help us understand how best to deal with coronavirus now as it peaks.
The Importance of Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us
Although severe cases of COVID, even those leading to fatalities, can occur in anyone, the following people have proven to be at greatest risk:
- Those over the age of 60
- Those with underlying conditions, e.g. diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, autoimmune disorders
Seniors are more likely to have pre-existing conditions than younger people and the combined factors increase their risk. There is a direct correlation between increased age and increased fatality. As a matter of fact, according to the CDC, 8 out of 10 of COVID fatalities occur in patients 60 years of age or older.
For this reason it is essential to do whatever it takes to lower the exposure of our elderly population. Because this disease is extremely contagious, protecting those who are most vulnerable requires people of all ages to exercise utmost care not to become infectious.
Stocking Up for the Winter When Infection Rates Will Rise Even More
Though many of us are heeding medical advisories and having small or non-existent holiday gatherings this year, it is necessary to stock up on necessary supplies to see us through cold weather, quarantines, possible lockdowns, and outbreaks of illness. In addition to food and household necessities (especially for sanitation), we should all make sure to have adequate supplies of regular medications. Having a 3-month supply of essential medications will help you and your loved ones stay healthy and feel secure.
Protecting Loved Ones from Coronavirus Who Live in Nursing Homes
We all saw elevated levels of COVID in nursing homes/rehabilitation centers during the early months of the pandemic, too many with tragic outcomes. Fortunately, some of the conditions and mistakes that led to the rise in disease and death in these facilities have now been remedied, but we should all be aware that these locations house extremely vulnerable patients. Two major steps you can take to protect loved ones living in nursing homes are:
- Check to make sure that all CDC guidelines are being followed by the establishment, relative to sanitation and sterilization, food preparation, hygiene, and wearing of protective equipment. Note that following such guidelines is legally required.
- Don’t visit your elderly relative unless permitted to do so and follow every rule to the letter if you do visit. Wear your mask; wash your hands and sanitize frequently; cover your coughs and sneezes; don’t visit if you have any symptom of disease. While your absence may seem punitive to your loved one who misses you, remember that it will help to keep your loved one alive to enjoy future visits.
Protecting Family Members at Home From Coronavirus
Many elderly loved ones live alone, with us, or with other relatives. Even so, they have increased risk of suffering a severe or fatal case of COVID if they become infected. For this reason, The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, as much as possible, these seniors:
- Not be exposed to those who do not live in the home
- Avoid any contact with household members who are ill
- Stay at home except for necessary medical appointments
- Wash hands frequently
- Wear masks when spending time with household members who work or shop
- Socially distance from close family members, except when their physical help is needed
In addition, everyone in the household should:
- Avoid touching nose, mouth or eyes
- Cover coughs and sneezes and through tissues away into a lined container
- Wear masks when in public
- Socially distance
- Disinfect hands often
- Sanitize areas that are communally touched (e.g. door knobs, counters, tables)
What to Do If Your Loved One Shows Symptoms of Coronavirus
Much depends on the severity of symptoms. If the patient is only mildly affected, you may be able to schedule a virtual visit or get your loved one safely tested for the virus before proceeding.
If the patient needs to be seen ASAP, call ahead to the doctor’s office, hospital, or urgent care facility to advise them that you are bringing in a patient who may have COVID. Follow directions about where and how to protect your relative and others when you bring your relative for help. If the patient is short of breath or otherwise in immediate distress, dial 911 and put on your mask before the EMTs arrive.
If You Have Not Yet Planned Your Estate, the Pandemic Should Give You a Push
Pandemics are not the only time you need to create estate planning documents, but they certainly make the need to do so seem more pressing. For your own sake and that of your family, this is the right time to consult with a skilled estate planning attorney and get your ducks in a row.
Too many Americans do not have the necessary legal documents in place if they should suddenly become incapacitated or pass away. Since the possibility of such a disaster has increased exponentially during the pandemic, this is the time to create:
- Last will and testament to designate a personal representative (executor), your beneficiaries, and a guardian for your offspring
- Durable power of attorney to name the person you want to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so
- Health Care Proxy to designate the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated
- Living will to express your wishes relative to end-of-life care
You may also want to establish one or more trusts to protect your assets from excessive taxation or for another specific purpose, such as to care for a special needs child or a spendthrift relative, to preserve assets for a charitable organization, or to care for a pet you may predecease.
Contact Surprenant & Beneski to Create or Review Your Estate Plan During the Coronavirus Pandemic
If you already have an estate plan, this challenging period of history is a good time to have it reviewed by one of our experienced professionals to make certain that it is correctly worded and legally binding. Also, there may very well be changes needed to update documents due to alterations in your financial, business, or familial circumstances. Contact our office today to learn more.