Daniel Severy is a 74-year-old U.S. Army veteran who contracted COVID-19. He compared the fight for his life to his tour of combat duty in Vietnam. His doctors placed him in an induced coma. He spent weeks on a ventilator. He survived but lost 40 pounds in the process. His recovery is ongoing and will be a long one.
The coronavirus is especially dangerous for older veterans. They are more likely to be hospitalized. It’s true that people aged 65+ constitute just 22% of COVID cases, but they are 45% of those hospitalized. Furthermore, 80% of all COVID deaths are people who are 65 and older.
The Veterans Administration (VA) is taking special steps to protect senior citizen veterans. But officials with the VA say that everyone in every community must do their part to help senior veterans. They point to key factors that put senior veterans at greater risk. They include:
* Live in households where other families are at increased risk of exposure while away from home.
* Live in families wherein members go out more, socialize more, and go out often for basic supplies.
* Live in multigenerational households.
* Veterans who refuse to wear facemasks when going outside the home.
* Veterans who don’t wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing.
VA officials say older veterans who fall into the above categories should be tested more often. They should also plan and remain in close contact with their local VA healthcare providers.
Veterans should also seek support from veteran services organizations or VSOs. These are “partnership organizations” that come in many varieties. They range from working as lobbyists for veterans’ issues to offering counseling services and providing daily aid. Senior veterans should conduct an internet search to find out if there is a VSO near them that can assist with pandemic-related issues.
For example, some VSO groups may run errands for veterans who want to avoid public locations where virus conditions are at high-risk levels. This includes things like grocery shopping or picking up prescription drugs from a pharmacy.
Finally, senior veterans must be educated and encouraged to take COVID-19 seriously. Public disinformation is rampant, including some major media outlets that tend to downplay the dangers of the virus and/or cast doubt on the necessity to wear facemasks for socio-political reasons.