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What doctors have learned (and you need to know) about mechanical ventilators

vetilator optIn early March, when the COVID-19 outbreak reached pandemic status, anguished cries wen up about critical shortages of mechanical ventilators at hospitals.

In the two months from early March to early May, two things have changed: First hospitals quickly received a surplus of ventilators. Second, as doctors got more experience treating Coronavirus patients, they discovered they didn’t need the ventilators as much as they thought they would.

“Initially we thought we’d see patients get rapidly worse, and we would rather place them on a ventilator in a more controlled fashion than in a crisis when they’re crashing,” said Dr. Marc Rovner, a pulmonologist at Indiana University Health’s Methodist Hospital.

But now, doctors are using mechanical ventilators as a last-ditch tool for making the difference between life and death.

Once Virginia starts reopening, should you see your doctor in person?

virginia reopening optToday, most of Virginia starts reopening.

From today until at least the end of the month, restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, places of worship, indoor shooting ranges, and brick-and-mortar retail stores such as book sellers will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, subject to certain restrictions. Others, such as schools, beaches, and sleep-away camps, will stay closed.

And, most important from a health standpoint, the ban on so-called “elective” procedures (i.e., those that don’t involve life-or-death threats) is being lifted.

This doesn’t mean that seniors who’ve been putting off routine or chronic care should all rush right down to their doctors’ offices. People over 65 are still the age group most vulnerable to COVID-19, and most of the deaths occur with patients over 80.

So the question is: When should you (or an elder you’re caring for) see the doctor in person? Consult by telemedicine? Or call 911 for an ambulance to the emergency room?

Be on the lookout for these additional Coronavirus early warning signs

on the lookoutSince the Coronavirus pandemic has been with us for months now, most people already know its basic warning signs: Coughing, fever, trouble breathing or shortness of breath, inability to wake up fully, and new confusion.

But now, partly on the basis of anecdotal evidence, the CDC has added six more that can show up two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

These are:

  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Fight Coronavirus from the Comfort of Your Own Home

fight covid2In hospitals treating Coronavirus patients, N95 protective masks keep infection from spreading from patients to doctors, nurses, and other front-line health workers. While personal protective equipment [PPE] manufacturers have been ramping up production, there still aren’t enough to meet hospitals’ needs everywhere. To say nothing of the needs of long-term care facilities such as assisted living and nursing homes.

But seniors with sewing machines in their homes can reduce the shortages. Normally, each N95 mask is good for just one use. But a homemade cloth mask covering it, a front-line health worker can use it over and over, day after day, for an extended period of time – provided they take the cloth mask home and wash it at the end of the day’s shift.

Sewing homemade masks is also good for seniors, both physically and emotionally. Physically because being self-isolated at home, where there’s less risk of exposure, cloth masks can provide decent protection. And emotionally, because making the masks is not only a new activity, but also one with a feeling of accomplishment, helping out and community connection.

Caregivers for elders with dementia
now face more challenges than ever.

caregivers for elders with dementia optMore than 16 million Americans provided unpaid care worth almost $244 billion last year to family members and friends with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Almost a quarter of those caregivers – about 4 million of them – belong to the sandwich generation, taking care of their children and someone from their parents’ generation.

Now the Coronavirus pandemic is making their work, which was never easy to begin with, even harder.

In addition to the challenges that ordinarily come with dementia, they now have to help elders ward off a virus that elders are particularly vulnerable to. And that’s hard when the elders in question aren’t aware of or unable to communicate the onset of symptoms.

Here are some things you can do to reduce the vulnerability and the strain: