From washing our hands better, cooking more at home, and using telemedicine can help protect us now and later, so, here are five habits we’ve learned from Covid-19.
These past few months have been scary and challenging, especially for older adults and anyone at risk of complications from COVID-19. But sheltering-in-place has given us a time to learn better strategies for infection protection, to cook at home more often, to check in with physicians more frequently via telemedicine, and even for gratitude and reflection. Though we don’t know exactly what the next few months will bring in terms of the coronavirus, what we’ve learned may help us with whatever comes.
1. We Keep Germs at Bay
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proper hand-washing can help prevent up to 58% of diarrhea illness in people with weakened immune systems and up to 16-21% of respiratory illnesses, (like C0VID-19), it may also even help prevent skin and eye infections. Thank you to frequent reminders from the CDC and other organizations, we’ve learned to do it often and well: lathering soap all over our wet hands, including the backs, between fingers, and under nails, for at least 20 seconds, then rinsing and drying them with a clean towel.
We’ve also embraced infection-control habits such as avoiding sick people if possible, keeping tissues handy, and tossing those tissues right away after coughing or sneezing into them.
2. We See Our Doctors In New Ways
With many medical offices closed and hospitals and urgent care centers overburdened, Medicare and certain private insurers expanded their coverage of telemedicine. While virtual healthcare isn’t doable for everything or everyone, evidence suggests that it can play an important role.
A team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reports in the American Journal of Managed Care that virtual video visits, one form of telehealth used at the hospital, can successfully replace clinic visits for many patients without compromising the quality of care and communication. Virtual video visits are personal video chat communications between a health professional and patient using a computer or tablet via a secure application. The research involving 254 patients, found that about 75% rated a telehealth consultation as good as or better than an in-person appointment, and research points to high satisfaction levels.
Some doctors also notice the benefits. “With telemedicine, we can ‘see’ more patients,” says Nisha Rughwani, M.D., an associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “We need to allow time between in-person visits to thoroughly clean and disinfect a room, so we cannot have the same volume we previously did.”
3. We Eat Way Better Now
Eating at home most of the time have begun because of the pandemic, In a survey which polled 1,005 Americans between the ages of 18-73, the report found that more than half (54%) of consumers report cooking more and 46% report baking more. A January 2020 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition suggests that people who cook and eat at home tend to have healthier diets.
Of the American adults surveyed who report that they are cooking more while sheltering-in-place, 75% said that they have become more confident in the kitchen and 50% are learning more about cooking, and 73% are enjoying it more than they did before.
“The hope is that even as restaurants gradually open up, people will continue to cook at home because it’s less expensive, healthier, and also relaxing”, says Bruce Rabin, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of pathology, psychology, and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
4. We’re Safely Social
It’s widely recommended that everyone practice social distancing, which means staying six feet away from others and keeping trips to public spaces like grocery stores to a minimum. Moreover, people who have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus are told to quarantine at home for at least 14 days.
Social isolation, at such a stressful time, can contribute to depression and have a negative impact on mental health. But when we can’t see people in person, technology can help. A 2019 study in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that older adults who use tools such as Skype have a significantly lower risk of depression than others.
Most of the seniors we see were already isolated even before the pandemic strikes, but now it’s really encouraged them to embrace technology and not be afraid, For example, one of the patients in the nursing home regularly plays games with his adult children and friends on Zoom.
If you aren’t getting out much, try doing virtual activities with friends at least two or three times a week. Keep your brain active, whether it’s reading a daily newspaper or through more social pastimes, such as joining a virtual book club or playing board games.
In a study of more than 15,000 older adults, found that those who participated in daily intellectual activities such as card games had a lower risk of developing a mental health problem. “They all allow you to think critically and interact with others”, says Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center. Mahjong, which can be played with others online, is a great option, Gary adds. In fact, a March 2020 study in the journal Frontiers in Neurology found that people older than 65 who played mahjong three times a week for 12 weeks showed improvements in executive function compared with a control group.
5. The Advantages of Age
Our ability to surmount struggles grows stronger with time, just like a fine wine, it improves over the years. Going through life’s crises may help us become more resilient and patient, Rabin says. “These attributes are like muscles,” he adds. “They become stronger the more you use them.”
Gratitude helps too. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with difficulty, and build strong relationships. People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways.
“I’ve been blown away by the level of appreciation I’ve seen from my patients, the emails and phone calls I’ve gotten thanking me for being there for them,” Rughwani says.
And this attitude may have surprising health benefits. Research in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research has found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer. The research also says feelings of gratitude may stop you from overeating and can help ease depression.