Coronavirus and Seniors
The novel coronavirus that is shutting down the country is certainly cause for concern. And seniors are definitely at risk of not only catching the virus but also ending up hospitalized. At Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group, we work with our clients to come up with solutions to legal problems. Many people in The Villages haven’t thought about an estate plan or advance directives. Now is the time.
Below, we hit the highlights of what our community needs to know about the virus, which authorities have named COVID-19.
No One Knows How Lethal COVID-19 Is
To judge how lethal a virus is, we need to determine the case fatality rate. You can estimate this by dividing the number of deaths by the number of people infected.
Unfortunately, the second number is hard to determine because so many people with the virus have mild or no symptoms. Actor Tom Hanks, for example, claimed only to feel a little tired even though he picked up the virus from his wife. He only got tested because his wife had a positive diagnosis.
Currently, the CFR in the United States is roughly 1.6% (though this fluctuates almost daily). But until we know how many are infected, we can’t know the true rate for sure. In any event, hundreds of people have already died in the U.S. and many thousands are expected to.
The Elderly and Those with Chronic Health Conditions are At High Risk
Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, lung problems, and cardiovascular disease are all at high risk. One study out of Italy showed that 99% of those who died had at least one previous medical condition. About half had 3 or more.
Age is also a factor. Those 80 and older have the highest case fatality rate; those between 70 and 79 the next highest.
Social Distancing and Handwashing Help Slow the Spread
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds whenever they go into public, such as the grocery store or post office. If you can’t wash, then use a hand sanitizer if available. Whatever you do, avoid touching your eyes and mouth until you have washed your hands.
You should also avoid those who are sick, and in any event limit the amount of time you spend with large groups. There aren’t enough face masks available for the public, so staying home is probably the best bet. For more helpful tips, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.
A Vaccine is More than a Year Away
Currently, volunteers have been injected with a trial vaccine. However, whether it is effective or not remains to be seen. Even if successful, it usually takes at least a year to gain necessary approvals before it can be widely distributed.
There is also no silver bullet treatment out there. Though some drugs have shown promise, none has proven to be particularly effective in double blind studies—which is the gold standard for determining what drugs work.
Advanced Directives Are Needed
If you become incapacitated, then you can no longer make medical decisions for yourself. However, you can take control with advance directives, such as a living will and the designation of a health care surrogate.
If you do not have advance directives or an estate plan in place, we can help. Our trust & estate administration attorneys have assisted countless residents here in the Villages prepare for the future. Contact us today at 800-743-9732 to get started.