Seniors

‘No Intubation’: Seniors Fearful Of COVID-19 Are Changing Their Living Wills

DENVER ― Last month, Minna Buck revised a document specifying her wishes should she become critically ill.

“No intubation,” she wrote in large letters on the form, making sure to include the date and her initials.

Buck, 91, had been following the news about COVID-19. She knew her chances of surviving a serious bout of the illness were slim. And she wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be put on a ventilator under any circumstances.

“I don’t want to put everybody through the anguish,” said Buck, who lives in a continuing care retirement community in Denver.

For older adults contemplating what might happen to them during this pandemic, ventilators are a fraught symbol, representing a terrifying lack of personal control as well as the fearsome power of technology.

Used for people with respiratory failure, a signature consequence of severe COVID-19, these machines pump oxygen into a patient’s body

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Seniors With COVID-19 Show Unusual Symptoms, Doctors Say

Older adults with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, have several “atypical” symptoms, complicating efforts to ensure they get timely and appropriate treatment, according to physicians.

COVID-19 is typically signaled by three symptoms: a fever, an insistent cough and shortness of breath. But older adults — the age group most at risk of severe complications or death from this condition ― may have none of these characteristics.

Instead, seniors may seem “off” — not acting like themselves ― early on after being infected by the coronavirus. They may sleep more than usual or stop eating. They may seem unusually apathetic or confused, losing orientation to their surroundings. They may become dizzy and fall. Sometimes, seniors stop speaking or simply collapse.

“With a lot of conditions, older adults don’t present in a typical way, and we’re seeing that with COVID-19 as well,” said Dr. Camille Vaughan, section chief of geriatrics

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In Shutting Out Threat, Seniors In Continuing Care Communities Feel Shut In

With tight restrictions in place at their continuing care retirement community, Tom and Janice Showler are getting on each other’s nerves.

Most days, Tom, 76, likes to drive out of their community ― Asbury Springhill in Erie, Pennsylvania — to the store to pick up a few items.

“If you follow the right protocols, the likelihood is quite low that we would come down with coronavirus,” Tom said. “If I didn’t go out at all, I’d feel like the walls were closing in on me.”

Janice, 72, doesn’t think that’s a good idea. She has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that raises her risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. Her father died of pneumonia, and “what terrifies me more than anything is not being able to breathe,” she said.

With her fear and Tom’s need for independence, “it’s become a bit of a power struggle,” Janice admitted.

Across

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