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home : columns : dear harriette October 20, 2020

7/14/2020 9:21:00 AM
Working child worried by homebound elderly parents

DEAR HARRIETTE: My elderly parents are struggling with being alone during quarantine. They don't get out normally, and now it's even worse. They don't have many friends, and they are afraid to go outside because they don't want to get sick. I'm working full time, so I don't want to get them sick. How do I ensure that my parents don't get too lonely while also knowing I can't be their only source of interaction? -- Saving My Parents

DEAR SAVING MY PARENTS: We are now five months into sheltering in place due to COVID-19. For the elderly, this time has proven extremely difficult; the recommendation is that they have no contact with their loved ones or anyone other than essential workers. If your parents or loved ones live in a nursing home or other retirement community, the rules are strict. "No visitations" remains the rule of the day -- with the exception of drive-by visits with no physical interaction. This is extremely difficult for those who feel isolated and lonely.

You are right that you cannot be everything for your parents. You can encourage them to engage their minds by playing solitaire, reading or listening to audiobooks, or starting an art project. If you aren't already communicating with them via videoconferencing, get them simple-to-use smartphones and do that regularly. Set deadlines for completion of fun projects that give them something to look forward to. Stay upbeat when you talk to them. For more engaging ideas, read

DEAR HARRIETTE: My employer wants me to go back to the office, but I don't feel comfortable commuting on public transport because I don't want to put my family at risk. I think it's irresponsible that he is asking employees to come into work so soon. Should I put my foot down and say I want to keep working from home, or go along with what my boss wants for the sake of keeping my job? -- Afraid To Commute

DEAR AFRAID TO COMMUTE: One of the biggest challenges about returning to work is the commute. People who drive their own cars have control over their interactions, but for those who must use public transportation, the notion of boarding a train or bus with many other people in order to get to the office can seem daunting.

As you contemplate your next steps, do a self-assessment. Do you have any underlying health conditions that put you at risk for coronavirus complications? That includes upper respiratory illnesses, diabetes, high blood pressure and auto-immune diseases. If so, you could mention this to your employer and say that you want to work, but you worry about exposure. You can ask if you can work from home a little longer to see how the virus manifests as public transportation ramps up.

You may need to point out how efficient you have been during this period that you have been at home so that your employer is reminded of your hard work.

If you find that you are required to go to work, follow all safety protocols. Wear a face covering during your entire journey. Keep your distance from others to the best of your ability. Keep hand sanitizer at the ready. Do not touch your face before cleaning your hands. Good luck!

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