By Melissa Draughn, LMSW, Director of Social Work
I have been diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders, hyperthyroidism and Multiple Sclerosis. It has been a long, difficult journey that ultimately taught me to be more mindful of my health. I won’t say I have been perfect about it but I have definitely become more careful and consistent. I also had to adapt to a new normal. And so of course, when I had just reached my best level of health maintenance, a pandemic happened. I was forced yet again to adapt to a new normal.
A big part of my new normal has been to severely limit my in-person social interactions. As a social worker and member of a fairly large family, I was accustomed to being around people, but I didn’t realize it until it became unwise to do so. The hardest adjustment was ceasing my weekly visits with my grandmother and parents. My grandmother is 92 years old and my parents, who are also her main caregivers, are in their mid-60s. We are in two different high-risk populations and the way I could show I cared was to stop physically showing up. We do however maintain contact by phone on a regular basis and the occasional video chat. It has been enough so far.
With the subtraction of face-to-face social interactions came the addition of increased fear. Fear has perhaps been the biggest obstacle during this time. Every sneeze was followed by a ‘what if’. It took me two weeks to leave the apartment for anything. I spent those two weeks distracting myself with work and streaming services. This phase, however, wasn’t sustainable. I am far from an extrovert or an outdoors person, but the first walk I took in the driveway greatly improved my mood and motivation.
As the fear lessened, I was able to absorb the facts. People, such as myself, taking disease-modifying treatments are more at risk for severe illness should we become infected with COVID-19. The stakes are higher but taking the necessary precautions, such as social distancing, increased hand washing and cleaning frequently used surfaces is still the best game plan. I was already doing some of these actions, but I am now more mindful of their importance. I also continue to take my medication as prescribed and will only make changes after speaking with my specialist.
The source of your information is also an important factor in managing fear. It is easy to become overwhelmed with multiple and conflicting pieces of information. I rely on updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or trusted organizations such as the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) for guidelines and recommendations rather than word of mouth. There are also different national societies for different diseases such as The National MS Society and National Lupus Resource Center that might be more helpful if you are looking to be more specific. Finally, I check in with my family members on a regular basis so that they know I’m okay. I find that it’s important to do this because it’s not just my fear that matters.
In closing, I want to remind you that our Zena Baum Senior Center hotline is available Monday through Friday from 9am – 5pm to help connect you with the resources you may need or to just lend a listening ear. You can find the phone number and email address below.
By Corey Achambault
AmeriCorps Program Director
Full disclosure: I am, in fact, a Millennial. Born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, I grew up watching cable TV, am skilled with a smartphone, and have no real memories of a time before the internet. I’m also an avid reader, love dogs, and consider volunteering to be my favorite hobby. Even though I may sometimes act like I know more than I do, when it comes to COVID-19, I’m paying close attention to those who know more than me and following the recommendations laid out by the CDC and State of Michigan.
As such, it really gets my goat when I read articles or social media posts criticizing Millennials for traveling to exotic spring break locations. Frankly, the last time I went to a beach for spring break was over ten years ago! And while I, too, may find myself being a little critical of those who travel for recreation right now, I think it is important at this time that we suspend assumptions and avoid mislabeling behaviors or giving in to gross overgeneralizations.
One stereotype about Millennials is that we try to make everything about ourselves and I promise that is not my intention with this note. I only share this experience to let you know that I get it – people have a lot to say about other generations, and all too often, it’s negative or misplaced, and it’s usually directed at either my generation or yours.
While logging onto social media, I often see sarcastic posts that end with “okay boomer” and an eyeroll emoji. Typically, my policy is to ignore the post and keep scrolling in search of content that is more interesting, more relevant, or, if I’m lucky, includes a dog video. However, I cannot take this same passive approach when I see an extension of this “joke” in posts now referring to COVID-19 as #BoomerRemover. It baffles me that people think this is humorous or okay. It is not.
If we stick to the facts, then yes, COVID-19 disproportionately presents serious, life-threatening symptoms in older adults. However, these symptoms are not exclusive to aging populations and can affect anybody, regardless of age. Furthermore, #BoomerRemover fails to account for the sum of the human experience. Now is a time for our community to come together and support each other, not reinforce divides or prejudices, passing them off as “harmless” humor. My generation is still getting our lives together and we need you to continue showing us the ropes! I need my aging family and friends in my life. They matter to me. You matter to me. You matter.
So here are some of the ways I’m supporting the older adults in my life at this time:
- Staying home to the fullest extent possible
- Promoting social media content that is actually humorous and educating those who post insensitive material
- Checking in regularly with the important people in my life
- Talking others through using grocery delivery services and apps that link library cards to eReaders or tablets
- Preparing a meal for neighbors diagnosed with COVID-19 and sharing via porch drop-off
Our world is about to change and nobody knows what it is going to look like. But if we come together and support one another through this time, then our community will come out that much stronger. It’s my hope that we can close the gap between our generations and find mutual understanding and respect that extends well beyond COVID-19.
By Tara Franey, Director of Development
Hello from my new “office” – my dining room table! I set up shop here last Wednesday and given yesterday’s announcement from Governor Whitmer, it looks like I’m going to be here for a while… The only one happy about this situation is my little chihuahua, Chili.
We are certainly in unprecedented times. I’m struck by how quickly this has all transpired and reminded how much of life is out of our control.
Beyond the upheaval this has caused to everyday life, I know that it must be surfacing uncomfortable issues for many people. For me, my health anxiety is in overdrive. While I’ve always had a bit of health anxiety, it became a major issue in my life about twenty years ago when my dad fell extremely ill out of nowhere and I was newly pregnant with my son. I gave birth to my son on the 3rd floor of St. Joe’s while my dad was in the rehab unit on the first floor after an eight-month battle for his life.
Although I managed to keep up appearances, I was in a very bad place mentally. Thankfully, I found a wonderful therapist and a group of people also living with health anxiety who helped me through. I will forever be grateful to those individuals who shared their own challenges and coping skills.
Over the years I’ve been much better, but COVID-19 has me rattled. I mean, it has even the most relaxed people a little worried! I’m doing my best to be rational, but it’s hard. I’m following all the precautions and finding peace in that. Let’s just say my hands are a little dry from all the washing and hand sanitizer. My daily date with my new boyfriend, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, also helps. His morning briefings reassure me that we’re all going to be okay and probably even stronger when this is over.
I know I’m not the only one feeling challenged during this time. My issue is health anxiety, but there are so many things people are dealing with. Depression, isolation, financial insecurity. I hope you can reach out to your network and find the help and support you need.
Please don’t forget that Hannan Center is here for the older adult community and their caregivers. Our Zena Baum Senior Center Hotline is still available Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm and our social workers can provide assistance. All calls are confidential. Reach out if you need help or just someone to chat with. We’re all in this together – don’t go it alone.
Can’t wait to be back in my real office at Hannan Center soon. Until then, it’s the dining room table and social distancing for me!
By Seema Verma – Administrator, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Since older Americans are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19), I wanted to let you know the steps we’re taking to help our Medicare beneficiaries cope with the pandemic.
We’re warning Medicare beneficiaries that scammers may try to use this emergency to steal their Medicare number, banking information, or other personal data.
Unfortunately, scammers come out of the woodwork during times of uncertainty and change. So make sure you give your Medicare number only to your doctor, pharmacist, hospital, health insurer, or other trusted healthcare provider.
If someone calls you on the phone, says they’re from Medicare, and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information – just hang up.
Remember: Medicare never calls its beneficiaries to ask for or to “verify” Medicare numbers.
My agency finished removing Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards last year in order to reduce fraud and protect Medicare beneficiaries from identity theft. Even with this change, you should guard your Medicare card. Treat it like a credit card. Be sure to check your Medicare claim summaries for errors and questionable bills.
If you suspect Medicare fraud, please report it by calling Medicare’s toll-free customer service center at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or by visiting www.medicare.gov/fraud.
I also want to inform you what Medicare covers with regard to coronavirus.
If your doctor orders a COVID-19 test for you, Medicare covers all of the costs. You should not have any cost-sharing.
Medicare also covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes extra days in the hospital for in-patients who were on the verge of being discharged, but were diagnosed with COVID-19 and had to stay longer under quarantine.
There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time. However, if one becomes available, Medicare will cover it.
If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have the same benefits as people with Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are now required to have the same cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests as Original Medicare: zero.
Medicare also recently expanded its coverage of telehealth services to enable beneficiaries across the country to receive a wider range of healthcare services from doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.
These changes allow beneficiaries to communicate with their doctors without having to physically go to a healthcare facility, thus cutting their risk of acquiring or spreading the virus. And frontline clinicians will be better able to stay safe themselves while treating people with Medicare.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers can deliver telehealth services via phone and video chat. Medicare beneficiaries can receive telehealth services in their home as well as in any healthcare facility, including a physician’s office, hospital, nursing home, or rural health clinic.
Telehealth services include routine office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings for cancer and other illnesses.
By helping healthcare institutions across the nation offer medical services remotely, telehealth helps free up hospital emergency departments and doctors’ offices to deal with the most urgent COVID-19 cases. For example, you can talk with a doctor about your diabetes management or prescription refill without having to go to his or her office.
During this emergency, Medicare will pay for telehealth services at the same rates as in-person services, giving doctors and other clinicians an incentive to use this alternative and reserve their offices to treat those who truly require in-person care.
We know many Medicare beneficiaries are concerned about the spread of coronavirus and the threat it poses to their well-being. That’s why we’ve taken these rapid steps to ensure that the Medicare program continues to protect our beneficiaries while maintaining trusted access to care in these uncertain times.