Posted on: March 30, 2020 at 2:10 pm

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus, it has become abundantly clear that older adults are at a greater risk for developing a severe or fatal case of the virus. While the mortality rate varies widely per country, the global average is now over four percent [1].

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This number, however, changes dramatically for the elderly. Currently, the mortality rate for COVID-19 patients between the ages of 70 to 79 is eight percent, and that number increases to nearly fifteen percent for those who are eighty or older [2].

For this reason, nursing homes, retirement homes, and long-term care facilities have restricted visitations and volunteers, have canceled all group activities, and have implemented active screening of residents for COVID-19 symptoms [3].

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Governments and healthcare officials have urged Americans to avoid close contact with their elderly friends and relatives to prevent spreading the infection to them, but for millions of Americans who rely on their elderly parents as caregivers for their own children, this is easier said than done.

Read: Opinion: Are You Young and unafraid of the coronavirus? Great, Now stop killing people.

Kids as Silent Carriers

There is not a large body of data regarding COVID-19 in children, however, it does not appear that children are at a higher risk for contracting the virus than adults, and children who do test positive generally present with mild symptoms, if they exhibit any symptoms at all [4].

While this may be a relief to parents, this poses a threat to more vulnerable populations. Because many children appear to be asymptomatic, there is a much higher risk that they could act as “silent carriers”, and unwittingly pass it on to older members of society, including their own grandparents [5].

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Read: Experts: Loss Of Taste, Smell Could Be Early Symptoms Of Coronavirus

Keep Your Kids Away From Your Parents

This was the reasoning behind closing schools and is why it is important to prevent all contact between your children and their grandparents, as much as possible. Dr. Rob Darzynkiewicz, chief medical officer of Hazel Health in San Francisco, says that for now, it is best to play it safe.

“For the time being, it is safest to limit kids to virtual visits with grandparents, either through video calls or over the phone,” he said [6].

This, however, is not always possible. US census data reported that grandparents are the primary source of childcare for thirty percent of working moms, and nearly three million grandparents throughout the country are responsible for their grandchildren’s needs [7].

Furthermore, three-generation households are becoming increasingly common in the US, and according to census data from 2014, ten percent of grandparents live with a grandchild [8].

With children now home from school and many parents working from home, this poses some serious problems. Working parents are now trying to figure out how to manage all-day childcare while also keeping up with their daily work obligations, and for many, their kids’ grandparents are the only ones they can turn to.

Erin Musich, a social media and web content manager from New Jersey, has been struggling without the support of her parents.

“It has been so hard because I am working from home and [my partner] is at work, so it is me and a 2-year-old and work,” she explained. “I often work from home, but my dad will help out for a few hours and it makes a huge difference or he will go over to their house which breaks up the day.” [9]

This new reality can be equally as difficult for the grandparents themselves, who are being isolated from their families. One mother in Virginia, who recently gave birth to her second child, has to keep the baby isolated from her mother to protect the newborn from the virus.

“It’s breaking my mom’s heart to not be around for these first few days,” she said [9].

Read: Coronavirus symptoms start slowly, then might worsen quickly

Advice for Parents

Parents of young children are under particular pressure these days, and explaining to your children why they can’t see their grandparents is a difficult task. It is also difficult for the grandparents, who want to remain connected to their grandchildren.

Thankfully, today’s technology makes it easier than ever before to stay connected from a distance. Set up daily or weekly phone calls, zoom chats, or facetime sessions for your kids and their grandparents. Not only will this help them to maintain their connection, but it will also free up some time for the parents to get tasks done while kids are talking with grandma and grandpa [10].

If you do live in a three-generation household, handwashing is of even greater importance. If you suspect that anyone in your home has contracted the virus, that individual must be isolated from the rest of the family immediately, and you should contact your local healthcare facility right away [6].

It may be difficult to keep your children separated from their grandparents, and you may receive push-back from your kids, and even the grandparents themselves, but it is crucial that we do everything we can to protect our more vulnerable populations, to ensure that once this crisis has passed, your children still have grandparents to play with.

Keep Reading: How Will The Coronavirus Pandemic Come To An End?

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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