In early December, Aldo Caretti developed a cough and, despite all precautions, tested positive for Covid at home. It took me several days. There, he was sent straight to the intensive care unit.
Caretti and his wife, Consiglia, both 85, lived quietly in a condo in Plano, Texas. “He loved reading and learning in English and Italian. He loved his three grandchildren very much.”
Aldo Caretti faced health problems last year, including a minor stroke and severe shingles, but “he recovered from it all.”
Covid was different. Even with a ventilator, Caretti was having trouble breathing. Ten days later, “he wasn’t better,” said Vic Caretti, who had flown in from Salt Lake City. “His organs were starting to disintegrate. They said, ‘He’s not going to make it.'”
At least later in this pandemic, the family will be able to be with their loved ones at the end of life. was alert and well aware of what was going on, ”said his son. “He was holding everyone’s hand.” He died a few hours later on December 14.
For older Americans, the pandemic remains a significant danger.almost Three-quarters of Covid deaths People over the age of 65 are affected, with the greatest losses concentrated in those over the age of 75.
The number in January is Covid-related deaths Although it declined after the holiday surge, it still reached about 2,100 people aged 65-74, more than 3,500 people aged 75-84, and nearly 5,000 people aged 85 and over. accounted for about 90% of deaths last month.
hospitalizationHowever, the number of people aged 70 and over is more than five times that of people in their 50s.hospital can endanger elderly patients Even if the conditions that produced them were successfully treated. The harmful effects of drugs, inactivity, sleep deprivation, delirium, and other stresses can take months to recover from or return to the hospital.
“The cost of COVID-19 continues to be very high,” said Julia Rachman, a public health policy expert at the Boston University School of Public Health and co-author of the recent paper. editorial In the New England Journal of Medicine.
Demographic disparities reflect an ongoing debate as the pandemic progresses: What responsibilities do those at low risk of the virus owe to those at high risk?
Details of the coronavirus pandemic
Should individuals, institutions, businesses, and governments maintain strategies like masking that help protect everyone and benefit especially vulnerable populations?
“Will you distribute them to the entire population?” Dr. Reifman asked about those measures. “Or do you want to stop doing that and drop your chips everywhere?”
Bioethicist and researcher Nancy Berlinger Hastings Centermade a similar point.
Three years later, society’s answer is clear. public health emergency scheduled for It expires in May, leaving the elderly on their own.
“Americans don’t agree on their duty to protect others, whether it’s a virus or gun violence,” Dr. Bellinger said.
that’s all 40.8% of the elderly I received a bivalent booster. Some people do not believe that it has a strong defense against infection. CDC investigation It was reported last month (although the data points otherwise).
Others worry about side effects or are unsure about the effectiveness of boosters. You may feel
Only 52% of residents and 23% of staff at nursing homes where the early pandemic devastated Immunization updates last month. early success, federally funded campaign Health workers were dispatched to the nursing home to administer the original vaccine dose. Medicare also mandated staff vaccinations.
However, care homes were allowed to create their own policies for boosters.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School. It’s easy.”
The costs of COVID-19 to older adults are beyond the most extreme dangers and include activity restrictions, loss of life, continued isolation and associated risks.
In Hillsboro, Oregon, 75-year-old Billy Irwin feels particularly vulnerable because he has type 1 diabetes. She and her husband have given up on concerts and plays, eating in indoor restaurants with her friends, watching movies, and doing volunteer work. Her book group fell apart.
“We spent a lot of time on the Oregon coast,” said Irwin. However, since this trip involves overnight stays, he has only done it twice in three years. Our annual visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival ended for the same reason.
The ongoing constraints have exacerbated the depression Ms. Irwin is also battling. One day she doesn’t mind changing her clothes.
“I’m disappointed that we don’t consider other people as much as we should,” she said. “I don’t know most people even think about it.”
Eleanor Bravo, 73, of Corrales, New Mexico, lost her sister to Covid early in the pandemic. It took two years before her family got together for the memorial. “She had an undue fear that if she got Covid, I would die too,” Bravo said.
She contracted Covid in July and has recovered. But she and her partner still avoid most cultural events, travel and restaurants. “Our world has become much smaller.” she said.Organizer Marked by Covida national nonprofit, is working to build a memorial to the 9,000 New Mexicans who have died from the virus.
Of course, many older Americans are also resuming their pre-pandemic routines. In Charlotte, North Carolina, 67-year-old Donna Bolz and David Bolz fell ill with her Covid in May.
But then they went back to restaurants, concerts, shopping, her part-time retail business, and his church choir, without masks. . “I feel like I’m doing what I want and living my life on my own terms.”
While the political feasibility of mandating masks, vaccinations, or improved indoor air quality seems zero, policy makers and organizations will force older (and immunocompromised) people to retire. You can take steps to protect yourself without
Health care systems, pharmacies and government agencies can initiate new vaccination campaigns in communities and nursing homes, including mobile clinics and home visits.
Remember the “senior hours” that some supermarkets introduced early in the pandemic? Now, “public spaces are not accessible to people who are concerned about infection,” said Dr. Rachman.
they might be. Markets, libraries and museums may adopt mask-required hours. Many off his Broadway theaters already have his 2-3 masques scheduled per week. Others can follow suit. “The Viral Underclass” author Steven Thrasher organized his tour of his 20-city mask book last fall.
“There’s a middle ground between shutting everything down to reduce contagion and doing nothing,” Dr. Raifman said. “It can reduce infections in a smart, comprehensive way.”
But finding a grief support group helpful, Vic Caretti encounters comments from strangers in Salt Lake City because he wears a mask in public.
“I don’t think people understand how COVID-19 affects older Americans,” he said. I have to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”