Bill Walsh: Hello. I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. Our lives today are drastically different from the early days of March, before the pandemic took hold in this country. The persistence of the coronavirus has upended daily tasks, such as trips to the store, as well as major life events — going off to college, organizing weddings, even taking a short vacation have never been so challenging. It has raised stress levels, contributed to fear and social isolation and exposed deep racial inequities in our country.
Throughout this trying time, we've all looked for guidance on how to stay safe and protected, connect with and care for loved ones and manage our finances. Today we'll talk with experts who will be answering some of your most frequently asked questions on these topics. If you've participated in one of our tele-town halls in the past, you know it's similar to a radio talk show, and you'll have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, please press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member. They will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comment section.
Hello, if you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion on how you can protect your health, manage your finances and care for your loved ones during the global coronavirus pandemic. Joining us today is Oliver Tate Brooks. M.D., the immediate past president of the National Medical Association; Warren Hebert, doctor of nursing practice, and a nursing professor at Loyola University in New Orleans and CEO of the HomeCare Association of Louisiana; and Jean Chatzky, president and CEO of HerMoney.com. We will also be joined by my AARP colleague Jean Setzfand, who will help facilitate your calls today.
AARP is convening this tele-town hall to help you access information about the coronavirus. While we see an important role for AARP in providing information and advocacy related to the virus, you should be aware that the best source of health and medical information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be reached at cdc.gov/coronavirus. This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus, 24 hours after we wrap up.
Now I'd like to welcome our special guests. Dr. Oliver Tate Brooks is immediate past president of the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. Dr. Brooks is also the medical director at Watts Healthcare Corporation, Los Angeles, California. Thanks for being back with us, Dr. Brooks.
Oliver Tate Brooks: Thank you for having me, Bill. Glad to be here.
Bill Walsh: All right, thank you. Dr. Warren P. Hebert Jr. is an assistant professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. He has more than 40 years of nursing experience and is an outspoken leader in home health care and health policy at the federal and state levels. Welcome back, Dr. Hebert.
Warren Hebert: Thanks for having me, Bill. I'm looking forward to the conversation.
Bill Walsh: All right. And Jean Chatzky is a best selling author and president and CEO of HerMoney.com. She is an award-winning personal finance journalist with more than two decades of experience, helping people manage their money. She also serves as AARP's financial ambassador. Welcome back, Jean.
Jean Chatzky: Thanks so much for having me.
Bill Walsh: All right, thank you all for joining us today. Let's go ahead and get started with the questions. Dr. Brooks, let's start with you. Cases are rising in places all over the country, but we've seen a lot of other numbers discussed. There are hospitalization rates, positivity rates, numbers of tests and more. What are the numbers we should be paying attention to?
Oliver Tate Brooks: What I would say is this — I think you should first look at the number of cases because that'll just tell you the relative prevalence, which means how much virus is circulating, how many people, if you will, are infected. That being stated, the ones that I track the closest are the percent that are positive. Because, let's say you test a thousand people, and let's say you get a hundred of them positive. You get a hundred cases. If you tested 10,000 people and you got a thousand positive, you have many more cases, but the positive rate is still 10 percent. So the percentage of the tests that are actually positive really gives you a good indication on how much of the population, if you will, was truly infected. I looked at some graphs and I noticed that the percent positive tends to also track the hospitalization rate and the death rate. So the other one that I would track is the hospitalization rates, because no matter how many people are truly infected, there's going to be a certain number, somewhere around 15 percent, that have it, that are going to be hospitalized. So, if you see the number of people in the hospital in your region, in your state, in your locale going up then you know that the virus is at a higher level, that there is more spread, that there is more risk.
And then finally, I think the death rate. So if you are seeing the death rate drop, then that's a great barometer. The only concern with the death rate is the death rate lags the virus. By the time you get to the death rate, someone may have had the virus for weeks, months. So to sum it up, the most important one that I watch is the percent positive of the case rates. That tells you exactly what's happening in your area.
Bill Walsh: OK, well, let me follow up to that. What is your view of the state of the pandemic? Have we seen the worst or is the worst yet to come?
Oliver Tate Brooks: So, you know, we'll note that every question that will be asked today is a difficult question. So let's start with that format or that concept. Right now, my feeling is that we're in not a good place. Information was released Monday, that it seemingly is moving out of South, the Sunbelt, and up into the Midwest and into the North. And interestingly it started and was biggest in the north in New York. So the key is that we don't have a handle on this virus. I personally believe that since it doesn't respect state borders and respect country borders, that we are here in a place where the virus is still spreading widely. So I believe that we are not in control, if you will, we haven't controlled the virus. So we need to just keep up our guard, and I'm sure we'll talk about the things we need to do to reduce the spread.
Bill Walsh: OK, thank you for that, Dr. Brooks. Now I'd like to turn to you, Dr. Hebert. Many school districts are opting for virtual learning, while some are doing in-person. Both options present challenges for children, parents and grandparents who may live in a home with, or care for, young children. What can they do to stay safe and protected and help their children and grandchildren learn?
Warren Hebert: Bill, this is a critical question for families. One of the most important things is to remember that we're all in this together. In my own family, we have children, the children's parents, teachers, school-systems leaders are all in it together. My wife is a teacher for juniors in high school. I've got a son-in-law who's a chief academic officer in the school system, and we've got 12 grandchildren, all of school age. So this is a vital question, Across the United States we have a lot of multigenerational families. To folks who track these things, a multigenerational family is one that's got more than just mom and dad and the children. It's got a grandparent or two in the home with them, and in some cases, maybe even great-grandparents. So the question that you're asking is vital related to what we do to keep them safe and protected, and at the same time help children and grandchildren to learn.
One of the first things that you should consider, is there an option for that aging family member to perhaps live in another family member's home? Perhaps there's another aging family member, my kids like to refer to me as more seasoned, maybe there's an opportunity for another older person, for you to live in that setting. That reduces the likelihood and the risk with children going into the school setting. It's not an option for everybody. So the next question is, is there a separate living space? If that older person can be in the separate living space obviously, the optimum situation is if there's a bathroom too, then that reduces the exposure to the children in that. But if that's not an option, consider even masks within the home setting, because children who are going into the school setting will be exposed. Our friends in administration are doing everything they can to try to protect children and minimize the risk. So what we can do to help keep the grandchildren learning is to tie their school subjects into things around the issues with coronavirus and issues related to safety. Tie the science into some simple things around epidemiology and how bacteria is spread. There's certainly a lot of opportunities related to math, and I'm sure some of my colleagues on the phone have found some literature from years and decades past related to this sort of situation. Obviously related to children and learning, it's important that everything that they receive is age-appropriate, and there are lots of resources online.
The last couple of suggestions I'll make, Bill, are the vital emotional hygiene for adults and children. And I think we'll talk about that a little bit more later, but our sense of well-being, our self-care, is critically important. And knowing that young people's social perspectives are different. As I mentioned, I've got 12 grandchildren; their interaction with their peers is something that is generally not going to change just simply with instructions. So teaching them about handwashing and distancing. My grandchildren have learned to give me an air-hug from 10 or 12 feet away.
Bill Walsh: All right. Well, thanks for that, Dr. Hebert. Yeah, we're going to probe more into maintaining people's well-being a little bit later. I also wanted to turn to Jean Chatzky. Obviously, the pandemic has impacted our wallets, and this is where she has expertise. Jean, while the special employment benefits expired on July 1, there's continued congressional debate about another economic relief package. From a personal finance perspective, how important have things like the economic impact payments and expanded unemployment benefits been for people trying to weather the storm?
Jean Chatzky: Thanks so much, Bill, and I just want to say to Dr. Hebert before I dive into this answer, I'm going to remember the word “seasoned,” and just remind my kids to use it, because I think it's especially nice. These benefits have just been crucial. And we know Congress is negotiating as we speak. I know there's been some controversy here that we've all heard a lot about how two-thirds of the people who received the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits actually earned more than they were earning in their jobs. But we have to remember that coming into this pandemic, our society, our country, was incredibly fragile financially. We were at the place in which half of all Americans did not know how they would access $400 to pay for an emergency without reaching for their credit card. So these benefits have been crucial and not just the additional unemployment benefits, but the food-assistant benefits that have been provided. We've been spending $2 billion a month on SNAP benefits. When you combine the enhanced unemployment and these food benefits, we kept about 10 million people out of poverty. Right now we have 30 million Americans, more than 30 million Americans, collecting unemployment. By the end of August over five million of them will be unable to cover their basic expenses for a full month without that additional $600. So as Congress works its way through this next round of relief, and I'm keeping my eye on what they're doing as we're talking, because if they do come to some sort of answer, I want to be able to bring it to you. Economists are noting that that expanded unemployment benefit, which looks like it’s headed back toward the $600 a week rather than the $200, which was floated earlier in the week, if I can read through the tea leaves a little bit, that additional extended unemployment benefit is actually more important than another round of stimulus. That said, it does look like a second stimulus payment will be part of this new bill and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has indicated that he believes he'll be able to get this second round of stimulus out faster than the 19 days that it took to start delivering the last one.
Bill Walsh: Well, we're all keeping our eyes on Congress at the moment. That seems to be where the action is as it relates to unemployment benefits and additional stimulus. Thanks for that, Jean. Back to you, Dr. Brooks. You know it's likely to be a particularly confusing fall with COVID-19 overlapping with cold and flu season. Since a fever can be associated with both the flu and the coronavirus, what are we to expect and what distinguishes COVID symptoms from the common cold? Will we need to do more testing to help distinguish between the two?
Oliver Tate Brooks: So we are headed into the fall and typically it is the flu season. We will have two viruses that are significant circulating: COVID-19 and influenza. As it relates to the symptoms, I would almost say leave that up to the physicians. In other words, if you are ill, go seek care. Let us determine which is which. That being stated, COVID-19 is more of a lower respiratory tract infection. It doesn't cause, at least in adults, much of the runny nose, the GIs, nasal congestion. It does cause cough, however. Both of them tend to have fever, and those that are hospitalized, 90 percent of those that are hospitalized, have fever with COVID-19. However, with influenza, just having influenza without even being hospitalized, by definition influenza has fever as one of the symptoms. So fever is more associated, if you will, with influenza. That being stated, as you mentioned testing, if you are ill, then you come in to see the doctor. We can test for influenza rapidly. So I can do a test and I can tell you in five minutes whether you have influenza. Right now, we do not have an FDA-approved rapid test, although we are doing some antibody testing, for COVID-19. So it is hard to distinguish between the two, especially for a lay person. The key is this also — with COVID-19 the primary symptom that gets people in trouble is shortness of breath, low oxygen levels. We do not tend to see that with influenza. The answer truly is difficult to tell, but the action is to get your influenza vaccine. Now influenza vaccine has relative degree of efficacy. Some years it's better than others, but this is a situation where some is better than nothing.
So my point in this take home message for this question is to get your influenza vaccine. Therefore, if you come in to see me and you're sick and you said, “I got immunized against influenza,” then I am going to focus a little bit more on COVID-19 a), and then b), even if you have influenza, you may have a milder case, which is something I think people forget. Even if it doesn't block you from getting influenza, your likelihood of getting hospitalized or dying diminishes.
Bill Walsh: OK. Just to be clear then if come this fall, if people develop a fever rather than going out immediately to try to get a COVID test, you're recommending they start with a call to their doctor.
Oliver Tate Brooks: Absolutely. Because theoretically it could be neither. So don't just start assuming don't determine that you suddenly have this high degree of knowledge. That's what we do, and we're happy to have you call and help you figure this all out.
Bill Walsh: OK, sounds good. Thanks for that, Dr. Brooks. We're going to get to those live questions shortly, but before we do that, I want to take a moment to update you on how AARP is fighting for you on Capitol Hill and in state capitals across the country. As Jean Chatzky mentioned, Congress is continuing to debate new legislation to respond to the pandemic. While this debate has many twists and turns over the past few weeks, throughout them AARP has consistently fought for older adults. We are reinforcing the need for Congress to provide assistance to state and local governments, extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, provide additional funding to ensure access to critical food and nutrition assistance, provide support for the U.S. Postal Service, and more. Importantly, we're continuing to advocate for protections for people who live and work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. More than 62,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID-19. We need action now from policymakers on this issue. AARP is calling on federal and state leaders to pass urgent legislation with robust funding to save lives. Unfortunately, current congressional proposals don't go nearly far enough. We need to ensure that facilities provide testing and adequate personal protective equipment, are transparent and facilitate ways for residents and their family members to stay connected with each other. In addition, nursing homes and long-term care facilities that harm residents should be held accountable. They should not be given blanket immunity.
While the situation is dire, we are seeing some progress at the state level. In Oregon, AARP helped fight off an attempt to give immunity to nursing homes. In Alabama and Oklahoma, we advocated for recently approved legislation to provide personal protective equipment and testing for nursing homes with insufficient supplies. In Pennsylvania and Utah, AARP state offices have successfully advocated for technology to facilitate communications between nursing home residents and their loved ones. In addition, AARP New Hampshire helped secure approval of legislation to address staffing shortages. AARP members, volunteers and activists have made their voices heard and helped secure these important victories. To learn more and make your voice heard on this important topic, please visit aarp.org/nursinghomes.
It's now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Brooks, Dr. Hebert and Jean Chatzky. I'd now like to bring in my AARP colleague, Jean Setzfand, to help facilitate your call. So welcome Jean. Hey Jean, are you with us?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, hi.
Bill Walsh: Are we ready to take our first question?
Jean Setzfand: Let's go to Paul from Ohio.
Bill Walsh: Hey Paul, go ahead with your question.
Paul: Hello there. My mother's in a retirement nursing-care facility. And my question is, recently the state of Ohio lifted the ban where the residents can meet with family members right as we were having a spike in Hamilton County in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. And it just amazed our family that that ban has been lifted and not put back into place and the residents can leave the facility with their families and then come back. And to me, that's just exposing everybody to a bad situation.
Bill Walsh: OK, well, Dr. Brooks, let me have you weigh in on this and maybe Dr. Hebert as well if you have some thoughts on whether those Ohio facilities should be keeping that ban in effect.
Oliver Tate Brooks: Thank you for the question, Paul. Based on the information that Paul provided, I would agree with him. In other words, you make decisions on policy based on the science. So if you see case rates or case percentages or hospitalization rates, and things I was saying that you should watch, increasing then you do not lift the ban. Now, it is also understandable because there is the behavioral health aspect. If you're in a nursing facility, you've been in there at least March through August, five months, at what point do you allow people to go visit their family? So I would say that it's a very difficult situation, but I concur. I would say that if my individual, my grandmother or someone, was in that facility, I would not have them leave because then they're putting them at risk themselves. And then I would also make clear with that nursing home and nursing facility, what is your policy when the individual's return? What kind of PPE are the staff wearing? What kind of social distancing is there between those that have left the nursing facility and then come back. Are you going to test them X number of days after they came back to ensure that they're negative. In other words, I would question them on their policy now that they've made such a bold action in terms of that specific nursing home. (inaudible)
Bill Walsh: Right. Dr. Hebert. I wonder if you wanted to weigh in on this. I was going to ask what advice you might give to family members with loved ones in facilities like this? In the face of this ban being lifted at a time when the COVID cases are not dropping?
Warren Hebert: Well, Paul, thank you for that question. I actually lived in Cincinnati for a couple of years when I was in high school. The challenge that we've got is that we've got a broad variety of different situations in different parts of the world, in different parts of the country, and even within different states. So the level of infection is going to differ from one place to the other. So as a result, what fits for you there in Cincinnati might not fit for people in other situations and other parts of the country. So in the event that the people who are handling the decision-making there perhaps feel that the rate of infection is low enough for them to give people that opportunity from a standpoint of their emotional well-being to reconnect with family, that could be a decision that has a very positive impact on their resilience and their emotional hygiene.
On the other hand, as Dr. Brooks pointed out, it certainly is a great risk. So as a family member, the things that I would suggest that you do would be to take some of the same precautions we talked about earlier. If that person's going to come home to visit with family, it's well documented, the press is offering lots of solutions, are you able to be in a different space? Are you able, while you're in the same home visiting, to be 6 feet or more from that other person? Have you and your family members come to some consensus about wearing masks when you're there? And we know about handwashing. So those are a few steps that I would take, and I think that it's a real difficult decision for the various providers of care in congregate living settings, to make sure they're not only taking care of that individual's level of risk, but also trying to do some things that help with their emotional well-being. And we'll talk about that a little bit more in the program.
Bill Walsh: OK. Thanks for that, Dr. Hebert. Jean, who's our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Benny from Pennsylvania.
Bill Walsh: Hey Benny, go ahead with your question.
Benny: Yeah, thank you so very much. Yes, my name is Benny Ward, OK, I'm from Erie, Pennsylvania. And what I'm calling about is my taxes. The guy that usually helped me pay my taxes is not able to do it because of the pandemic. And now they're talking about selling my home. Is there anybody out there that's thinking about helping somebody with their taxes, because they can stop from throwing people out because of their rent. I understand that, but this is my taxes.
Bill Walsh: Yep. Jean Chatzky, do you have any words of advice for Benny?
Jean Chatzky: What I would say is to start at AARP, on the website. AARP has a number of resources that can help you with your taxes and has volunteers. You'll find them under the Tax-Aide program that may be able to help you as well. If you haven't filed your taxes until this point, you probably know that the deadline has passed. It was moved from April, where it usually is, until July. You can get an extension until October, but that extension is an extension to file. It's not an extension to pay. So I would very quickly go to AARP, go through Tax-Aide program, try to find some help accessing somebody who can help you file an extension. It’s form 4868. If you can’t get the help quickly, you can probably do it yourself on the IRS’s website, which is irs.gov. And just file the extension form. As long as you don’t owe the government any money at this point, they will give you an automatic extension and then that’ll just buy you almost an additional three months in which to deal with this.
Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that Jean. And thanks also for mentioning the AARP Tax-Aide program. AARP is, a little known fact, is one of the biggest tax preparers in the country. We do millions of returns for folks for free on an annual basis. You can call that program at 888-687-2277, or you can find them online at aarp.org/taxaide, that’s aide with an E. We normally operate sites around the country, but because of COVID, we’ve had to close them. We are, however, helping people over the phone and online with tax preparation services. So check that out. Jean, who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: We have a lot of questions coming in from YouTube, and this one's coming from YouTube from Nina. And she asked this question. “Hello, after testing positive, will we be contacted by a contact tracer or something else we need to do on our own?” I guess that would be good to kind of go through the contact-tracing programs, if possible.
Bill Walsh: Dr. Brooks, can you address that question about contact tracing?
Oliver Tate Brooks: Yes. So you should be contacted. That generally is done by your county or your city, whatever your local jurisdiction is in terms of public health. You should be contacted, and they look back to see who you've been in contact with over a period of time. If you are not called, then the first thing you need to do is isolate yourself to ensure that you’re not spreading to others, and then do your own quote unquote contact tracing. Generally the virus is infectious possibly two days before you have symptoms, if you had symptoms, and then if you just tested positive and you were asymptomatic, you would look back, probably about two weeks because you could have had it for that period of time. So think back on where you were, who you were exposed to, and generally speaking exposure is six feet or less in distance and being around someone for 15 minutes or longer. That's what we look for in our health care environment. So to answer the question, yes, you should be called. But I think right now, some of the public health systems are overwhelmed. I know they are. And they just don't have the ability to follow up with everyone who tested positive. For example, right now in the United States, there's somewhere around 50,000 new cases every day.
Bill Walsh: Yes, so interesting advice. So if you're not contacted, but you've tested positive, maybe do it on your own. Reach out via email, phone calls, and just let people whom you've come into contact with know that you've tested positive, and they can take their own precautions. All right. Well, thank you.
Oliver Tate Brooks: Which is generally quarantining.
Bill Walsh: Which is generally quarantining for 14 days. Thank you, Dr. Brooks, for that. Jean who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Carl from Pennsylvania.
Bill Walsh: Hey, Carl, you're on the line. Go ahead with your question.
Carl: OK. Thanks. I would like to address transportation because in Pennsylvania we have a lot of rural areas. And one of the things that I would like to know, that the individuals or the seniors that are living in long-term care and nursing homes that need transportation to go back and forth in the community to get their appointment, what type of safety that they're having from their virus from the transportation that they use?
Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Hebert. Do you want to tackle that question?
Warren Hebert: Sure, Carl, thank you. You know, rural areas have really unique challenges. I'm actually in the process of writing a chapter for a textbook on home care in rural areas. Transportation is one of the big challenges in rural areas when it comes to getting to health care or getting to other places. In the event that you'd need to use some type of transportation, public transportation is difficult to find in rural areas. The transportation that you would be using if you were in an urban area, taking extra precautions certainly around wearing masks, traveling as little on public transportation as you possibly can, handwashing, distancing are all very important. In rural areas the challenge around transportation is very unique to each area. Different parts of the country have more robust assistance in transportation than others. So there are a lot of issues that are going to be specific to your area, and AARP has a wealth of resources and people to look to assist you. And you can find that information by going to aarp.org/caregiving, and there'll be information for you there that should help.
Bill Walsh: It seems that Carl was also concerned about possibly putting an older person at risk if they're taking transportation while at a nursing home. If they're leaving the facility to, I don't know, get their hair done or go to the grocery store. How big of a risk is that would you say, Dr. Hebert?
Warren Hebert: The risk depends on what they're going to be doing. I've seen a number of different resources that are available that give you an opportunity to evaluate whether a particular activity is higher risk or lower risk. Some indicate that it's a lower risk if they're taking you out to go shopping, as long as you're wearing a mask and keeping the distancing. It's a higher risk if you're going out to have your hair done. And it is an even higher risk if you're going to be going out into a setting where there are a lot of people, perhaps a church service or something like that. So again, it will vary depending on what is being done. But Carl, you're certainly on target with regards to recognizing that these different experiences are going to provide a different level of risk every time that person's leaving.
Bill Walsh: Yeah, and I think it's worth reminding folks that if ever there was a time, this is a time to be an advocate for your loved ones who are in nursing homes or assisted- living facilities. You have the right to know what's happening inside those facilities, to be connected with your loved ones and to understand what precautions they're taking to keep your loved ones safe. So be an advocate. Also know that in every state, there are long-term care ombudsman, independent people who are responsible for helping consumers with issues that come up in long-term care settings. So those resources are available for free, as well. OK, well, let's go back to the phones. Who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: Hi Bill. Our next caller is Paul from Nebraska. Paul, you're live.
Bill Walsh: Hey, Paul, go ahead with your question.
Paul: Yes. I have a question for Mrs. Chatzky. What can the average individual do to minimize the costs other than, you know, what commonsense would tell you, for the end of this, God-awful pandemic that we're going through? What would be her suggestions that we could minimize the cost?
Bill Walsh: Paul, when you're talking about costs, what kinds of costs are you talking about?
Paul: Well to minimize the cost that we're going to have all across the board. I see three facets of it. And certainly the government portion is one, but the actual costs that we have, what can the average person do? What would she suggest that we could do to minimize those costs?
Bill Walsh: OK, Jean, do you want to try and take that question?
Jean Chatzky: I think it's a good one, and I actually think that the pandemic has given us a little bit of a gift in this regard. Because we've been home, many of us, because we have not been going out into the world, we have actually not been spending nearly as much money as we were on a regular basis. If you look at the savings rate in this country and the personal savings rate, which is actually the percentage of our disposable income that we save on a monthly basis, usually it runs about 6 percent. During the pandemic it zoomed all the way up into the 30 percent range. Now it's fallen back, and those double-digit rates are not really sustainable, but what is sustainable is to take a look at where your money has not been going over the past couple of months, and how you can maintain some of those savings.
So let's just talk about a couple of examples. Many of us were in the habit of going to the grocery store multiple times a week. But during the pandemic, we didn't want to go out of it as much. We were told to social distance; we were told to stay home. And so for the first time in a long time, we started planning our meals. We started making lists of what we were going to buy. We started cooking more than we had been in the past, and that resulted in a large savings of money for many, many people. We also were able to take a look at the difference subscription services in our lives and the other things that we spent our money on. We now know which of our streaming and cable channels we watch, and which ones we don't, and we should go through the process of canceling those things that we haven't been using.
Then interest rates are offering us an opportunity. You know, interest rates, are doing absolutely nothing for savers these days. You put your money in the bank, you're getting very little back for it. But if you are carrying debt of any sort, and you've got a decent credit score, you should be looking to refinance those debts. Mortgages can be refinanced. Student loans can be refinanced. Car loans can be refinanced. Even reverse mortgages, if you took one out, can be refinanced and you can pull more money in many cases out of that same property. Now granted, some of these transactions are not free. There is a cost to refinancing a mortgage whether it's a regular mortgage or a reverse mortgage, but you may find that it is well worth the effort because you're spending so much less on a monthly basis going forward.
Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that Jean. Let's take another question from one of our listeners. Go ahead.
Jean Setzfand: We have quite a few questions around travel, and here is one from YouTube from Frederick which, I think, puts a fine point on it. “I travel for cancer treatments — which would be considered safer, plane or train?”
Bill Walsh: Hmm, Dr. Brooks, do you have some thoughts on that?
Oliver Tate Brooks: That's a good question. I would say, and first I want to correct something. I had said 14 days of quarantine isolation. The guidance is now changed to 10 days of quarantine and isolation. So just make that notation that if you test positive, it's 10 days from the point of positivity or quarantine 10 days from exposure.
Now, as it relates to travel. So that's a challenging question. A plane's faster, so you're on it less, generally speaking, in terms of distance covered in a period of time. The key is keeping that physical distance and cleanliness, I will say. So, my instincts tell me, because I haven't traveled since this whole thing began, but my instincts tell me that the train may be a little safer because trains, at least from my experience, right now probably are not as packed. They have a (inaudible) of a percent of the seats filled. So it's easier to be away from somebody because that's where I believe the issue will be. So I would say that if you have the choice for relatively short distances, I would go with the train.
Bill Walsh: OK, thank you for that. And thank you for all your questions. We're going to be getting to more of them shortly. Now let's get back to our experts for answers to some of our most pressing coronavirus questions.
Dr. Hebert, we're five months into the pandemic in this country, and for many family caregivers who were stressed before their pandemic, this is sure to be a challenging fall. What are some of the strategies that people can employ to ensure they take care of their mental and physical well-being as they care for loved ones?
Warren Hebert: Bill, my wife and I are family caregivers to a 29-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome, and my family cared for my dad who had dementia for seven years. And in his final year, he was bed- and chair bound. So the family caregivers who are listening out there certainly have a wealth of challenges. With regards to our mental well-being, as I indicated a little earlier, I've taken to calling that emotional hygiene. The virtual visits, when possible, can really make an impact in one's disposition. The technology that's out there like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype is something that I've taken to using even though I'm using it a lot with work, I'm also beginning to use it a lot with family, and also just with friends. The opportunity to see another face really helps the family caregiver from a standpoint of their resilience. But also the person that's receiving care.
Respite is a conversation that we have often around family caregiving. Is there another family member who is isolating that can come in to give the primary caregiver a break once in a while. Some other things is exercise within one's own home. The opportunity to do some chair exercises, if that family caregiver is older, or if you are at an age and in a place where you can exercise. Since COVID-19 started, I'm out on my cruiser bike every morning, getting in about 10 miles a day. So if you have that option, this certainly can be a time, and I want to thank Jean for her comment earlier that in many ways COVID has been a gift. So for you as a family caregiver, the opportunity to search out support groups. Our story as family caregivers is very important. It helps us to bring meaning. And the last couple of things that I'll mention is the opportunity for prayer, yoga, meditation are all important. And the last thing that I'll mention is actually about subtraction more than addition. And that is limiting our time with the various media. Our friends in, not only social media, but in our more typical media, need to get information out there that helps to drive ad time. So what that means is you're likely to get very sensationalized views of whatever the issue of the day is. For the average person, limiting our time with the media can help us with our own emotional well-being. Thank you, Bill.
Bill Walsh: Yeah, thank you for that, Dr. Hebert. And one other resource for family caregivers I'll mention is a new a resource that AARP created just a few months ago. We call it Community Connections, and it's a way of connecting with folks in your community, whether it's to get some transportation, deliveries, sitting with somebody for a while. You can plug into these local networks that you may never have known existed before COVID and maybe didn't exist before COVID, but they exist now. And part of that program is a free call from one of our trained AARP volunteers. So if you have a loved one and you're concerned that they're isolated, need to be talking to someone, you can sign them up to get a free call or a series of calls from an AARP volunteer. That friendly caller number is toll free, it's 1-888-281-0145. You can also find it online at aarpcommunityconnections.org. So just one more resource for family caregivers, who even in the best of times have a lot on their hands.
OK, Dr. Brooks let's turn back to you. We're continuing to see even more concerning data about the impact of the pandemic on people of color. This is deeply troubling. Why is this? And what more needs to be done to address it?
Oliver Tate Brooks: So the why is that the virus tends to affect and infect the weak and (inaudible). The data is showing that those with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease are more likely to have an adverse outcome. And those conditions or are more prevalent in the African American community and communities of color for many reasons, which I don't think we need to get into now. That's why.
So what we do? So first of all, and most importantly, I believe it was Dr. Herbert that said we're all in this together. So for those that are not from a community of color, understand that we're a country, we're all one, and we're all going through this together. As I said earlier, data is showing that it's coming out of the South and moving to the North and the Midwest. So if there are these high rates among the African Americans, who primarily live in the South, it's just going to spread up. It's going to spread, and it is spreading up. So we're all in this together.
I want to also stress what Dr. Hebert just said — wellness, the things he spoke to, were all things in that provide wellness to your body. So those are actions to be taken. So at the NMA level, we're asking the CDC to give us good data, so we can track and really have a better understanding of what truly is going on in the people of color communities, and that also gives us information in the overall country. I would say if you have diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and for everyone, it's more likely to occur in African-Americans, get care. We're doing with telemedicine. You can actually go in to see your doctor. And when we see patients, we have PPE, we give masks to the patients. So if you need care, get care. It's really important that we do testing and contact tracing. That question that came up earlier about what happens if I test positive and no one comes back to me. There should be more testing in the African American community and other communities of color, and the NMA has partnered with CVS, for example, to get more testing in those areas.
And then I would say, policies. Policies that eliminate the disparities and health outcomes will allow for this not to occur going forward. For example, Jean Chatzky spoke to the $600 unemployment incentive. That is more important than the stimulus package because when you give people $600 now, they need it. They're these unemployed people that are spending it. So African Americans may be more likely, are more likely to be unemployed. So that type of thing will help because if you're unemployed and you need a job, you may be more likely to go out there and do a job that you maybe shouldn't be doing because you're exposing yourself to the virus.
And then ultimately, you mentioned AARP in various states having advocacy successes, I'll call them. So advocate for yourself, advocate with organizations like the AARP that are doing things that are helpful. Then also, we have a referendum coming in three months. Study your ballots from top to bottom, national down to the school board and put those in positions of authority who you feel represent your best interests.
Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Brooks, thanks for that. Jean Chatzky, let me turn to you to look at another dimension of the issue Dr. Brooks was just talking about. From a personal finance and economic perspective, have women and people of color also been harder hit by the fallout from the pandemic.
Jean Chatzky: No doubt. And just like, Dr. Brooks was pointing to health in this picture, you can't really separate the health from the finances here. We know that Black Americans are dying at 2 1/2 times the rate of white Americans. And part of the reason for this is that is the jobs they do. That when you look at the data from the Bureau of Labor statistics, Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be doing what we call the essential jobs. They are in the food industry and health services, and on the surface and on the upside, this means that in many cases they still have their jobs. But on the downside, it puts their health at risk. So I think it's all part and parcel of the same puzzle. When we talk about other people of color, we know, 6 in 10 Hispanic adults say that they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a pay cut. That is much greater than the number of white adults in this country who have had that experience.
When it comes to women overall, COVID-19 is impacting women's livelihoods more than it is men for a couple of reasons. Again, it's the type of jobs that women do. When you look, not just in this country, but around the world, women's jobs are almost twice as likely to be cut in this recession as jobs held by men. But it's also the amount of unpaid work that women are doing and that amount is increasing dramatically. We've got schools closed, we've got health systems overwhelmed, and that is forcing many women to spend many more hours each week on caregiving and housework, and again, women of color, as well as single women, are doing even more. When you look at this statistically, we know three-quarters of Black women and Latino women are spending three or more hours every single day just on housework. And that compares to just over half of white women. So there are a lot of inequities.
Bill Walsh: OK, Jean. Thanks for that. Let me ask you another question, another financial question's been top of mind for many people. The markets have been volatile over the last several months, and there's been a lot of uncertainty looking to the future. What tips do you have for people who may be approaching retirement in the next few years and are watching retirement fund balances bounce up and down?
Jean Chatzky: First of all, don't watch. I'm not really joking. I mean, yes, we need to keep a macro view at what's happening in our retirement, but trying to micromanage these balances, knowing that we have no control over the market, no control over interest rates, is not a good thing for your emotional well-being or for your financial decision- making. It's when we get over involved in the tremendous volatility, and the volatility has been like nothing we saw even in the 2008 great recession period, it's been so much greater than that. When you let yourself get sucked into that, that's when you make bad decisions.
Wo my advice, and it really has not changed, is take a look at when you need this money. If this is truly long-term money, money that you do not need in the next three to five years, then continue to invest it in a way that makes sense for your age and for your risk tolerance. If it is money that you need in the short term, it does not belong in the markets. It never belonged in the markets. Finally, this is a really good time to sit back, particularly if you are looking at retirement coming toward you in the next five to 10 years, to look at what you're going to need in that retirement, and to figure out how you are going to create an income stream that will cover that for as long as you live, using a combination of Social Security, as well as any pension income, as well as the income that you have set aside in your retirement plans. And you may need help with that. Even if you just sit down with a financial advisor for an hour to get a sense of, am I moving in the right direction? Am I making the right decisions? It's money well spent.
Bill Walsh: OK, thanks Jean. Back to you, Dr. Hebert. While much of the increase in recent cases is among younger people, residents and staff in nursing homes and long-term care facilities continue to be the hardest hit. How does spread in the community among younger populations connect to the cases and deaths that we're seeing in these facilities?
Warren Hebert: Bill, the nature of the contagion has been striking. The information I'm reading is that the latest strain of the coronavirus is now 10 times more contagious in the lab than the original mutation that came out of Wuhan, China. This is something that people should be paying very close attention to. And the challenge that we've got is that this is happening, this more contagious version of the virus is happening at a time when we are all experiencing a degree of exhaustion around isolation, wearing masks and distancing. So this is a real recipe for disaster.
So to your question, how does the spread in the community among the younger populations connect to cases and deaths in facilities? The nature of human connection is that we are at risk for contagious diseases. And the young people who are having a very different perspective around these precautions, essentially live with parents who may be staffed in the nursing homes. For those nursing homes that are not practicing, as indicated earlier by Paul in Cincinnati, who are letting other people come in, that means that every person who's coming in for a visit or every person that's going home to visit, and then going back into the nursing home, as Dr. Brooks indicated earlier, that's a pretty high risk for them to be going back in, because each and every one of those people has the potential to have been exposed to someone who was asymptomatic, but yet positive.
The home is the safest place today. One's personal home, and it's also the safest place for care. The connections between family is part of our self-care. It's part of our resilience, our ability to engage one another. We might ask ourselves a very important question, do we have a false sense of security about connecting with people who we’re familiar with? My sense is that even though I've got the same level of risk when I connect with my sons or daughters or grandkids, I have a false sense of security because I'm familiar with them. The other thing is, is that there's a willingness on my part to perhaps take a greater risk with family. For example, in my family, 79 percent of us are employed in health care. We've got 24 RNs in the family between aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, etc. So all of these people have the potential to be exposed when folks in the younger populations are out and making choices that not following prudent practices around mitigating risks.
Bill Walsh: OK, thank you for that Dr. Hebert. Now I'd like to take a moment to alert our listeners to continued coronavirus scams. Scammers continue to use the headlines as opportunities to steal money or sensitive personal information. The FBI is warning that scammers are advertising fake coronavirus antibody testing. Their goal is to obtain sensitive personal information they can use in identity theft or medical insurance fraud. Scammers may claim the test is FDA-approved and may even offer a cash incentive to lure in unsuspecting consumers. The agency recommends consulting your doctor before taking any COVID-19 antibody test at home and warns against sharing personal or health information with anyone other than a known and trusted medical professional. Visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork to learn more about these and other scams, or call the Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360.
Now it's time to address more of your questions with Dr. Brooks, Dr. Hebert and Jean Chatzky. Jean, who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Brian from New York City.
Bill Walsh: All right, Brian, go ahead with your question.
Brian: Thank you. I am suffering from agoraphobia, the fear of being outdoors during this pandemic, because I do not know who, what or where it's safe, and it's leading to isolation and depression. What advice and information do you have for anyone who is suffering like I am? And thank you very much.
Bill Walsh: All right. Thank you. Dr. Brooks, do you have any advice for Brian in New York?
Oliver Tate Brooks: Yes, so a couple of things. First of all, we all have our fears and our phobias, so I think that it's something that I like the way he stated it categorically, it's acceptable. The virus spreads a lot less outdoors. The concern mostly is indoors. So, in general, if your agoraphobia is related to the virus as opposed to as in general, I would say reduce that some.
Number two, be in places where there are no people. For example, you can go, so let's say to a park, a field, a national or state park, and park and go out into the woods. Or even if you live in an urban area, find an area that doesn't have a lot of people. In other words, you have a true fear and that's understandable. Wearing a mask helps some, but I want to just make a comment other than an N95-grade mask, masks are made for you to stop spreading to other people. So you wearing a mask helps you from infecting other people potentially, but it is not made to protect you from them. So, I think it's good to get outside, first of all. I think that just the concept of fresh air and being inside is strangling. So find an area where there is a minimum of people. You wear a mask, because it does afford some protection to you, and then do know that in general the aerosol or the droplets get dispersed in the outside air, and so your concern is a lot less.
Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that. Dr. Brooks. Jean, who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is, Tuerie from D.C. I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly.
Bill Walsh: OK, go ahead with your question.
Tuerie: OK. Yep, this is Tuerie from D.C. Just two quick questions — number one, how do we know the death rates that are posted separate the COVID deaths from other deaths at this time? And then I have a question about retirement. I'm of age and in service, and I'm a teacher. So, I'm really stressed about this online teaching. Is this a good time for me to retire? So those are my two questions.
Bill Walsh: OK, well, Dr. Brooks, her first question seems to be a pretty straightforward one. Do you want to take that, and then we'll turn to Jean Chatzky.
Oliver Tate Brooks: Yeah, the first one is. The CDC, and generally state and local public health departments, have criteria on what is considered death from COVID-19. And so we test patients as they come into the hospital. You can actually do a postmortem specimen on them. It will get a little tricky, let's say if someone had a heart attack and tested positive for COVID-19. But I would say I would not concern myself with that because 90 percent of them are clear COVID-19, and maybe there are 10 percent that aren't clear. You still have a 90 percent predictability odds ratio of knowing that the hospitalization rates that you're reading about or hearing are accurate.
Bill Walsh: OK. And she also had a question, Jean, about retirement. Can you offer some advice there?
Jean Chatzky: I can offer some generalities. It's very hard for me to say yes or no without knowing your numbers. And the real question that you need to ask yourself is, in combination with your savings and Social Security, if you're eligible for it, and the money that you have in a pension, if you're receiving one from your school district, have you accumulated enough for a retirement that is likely to last 30 years. If you can get a grip on your numbers, you basically want to make sure that you are replacing a good 80 to 85 percent of your preretirement income. There's kind of a fallacy that people in retirement spend an awful lot less than people who were preretirement. And what we see in real life is that that's just not the case, especially with today's very healthy and vital retirees. So I'd say it's time to do a financial physical and figure out if you are set up, in order to do that. If you truly don't think that you can handle the remote teaching, you may want to take the next couple of weeks to look for other opportunities, maybe a smaller environment would be more workable for you. I know that there are an awful lot of people who are hiring tutors and former teachers to take care of their own children's needs. But you then would have to ask yourself when COVID is over, and I hope, it will be over sooner rather than later, is that going to be sustainable over the long term?
Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that, Jean. We see a number of questions in the queue about scams. So I just wanted to reiterate the toll-free number AARP has at the Fraud Watch Hotline. That is 877-908-3360. Jean, who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: We have a question coming in from YouTube and this one's coming from Joy. And she's asking about mobile testing done for people who can't leave their homes or may be in care facilities, especially for group environments. Can they also be tested?
Bill Walsh: Dr. Brooks, do you have any insight into that?
Oliver Tate Brooks: So there are many areas that have mobile testing. So, yes, I think that's an excellent approach, bring the testing to the patient. As it relates to nursing homes, the test is a relatively simple thing. You swab the nose. So a nursing home or nursing facility or any accommodating living facility could actually just bring in a provider like a physician and maybe a nurse to help handle it, and just test people. The test, generally speaking, doesn't have to be refrigerated, and it can be taken to the lab and it can be run. So that is definitely a viable option. That again, would be based on your locale and how flexible they are, how nimble they are with dealing with issues regarding testing.
Bill Walsh: OK, thank you, Dr. Brooks. Jean, who is our next caller?
Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Albert from North Carolina.
Bill Walsh: Hi Albert, go ahead with your question.
Albert: My wife and I are very high risk, especially my wife and our children and grandchildren all live out of state. How do we make it safe for them to visit, or is it recommended that we not?
Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that question, Albert. And this is a predicament I think a lot of people find themselves in at this time when folks just aren't traveling as much as they had in the past. Dr. Hebert, do you want to address Albert's question?
Warren Hebert: Albert, I mentioned a little bit earlier that we've got a dozen grandchildren and the issue that you're dealing with around meeting to see your grandchildren is something that all of us are dealing with. So finding ways to connect with them virtually means that you'd have no risk at all. It means that a lot of us, thank you, Jean, for the comment earlier about being more seasoned, a lot of us more seasoned folks are needing to get used to some of the technology like FaceTime and Zoom and Skype. That means you've got no risk at all.
For some family members, they really want to be present. They want to be in a physical space. So one of the questions that you need to ask yourself and that your family needs to ask, is if you're going to visit them and maybe make a drive there, because that's the safest thing to travel, are they able to isolate for 10 days prior to your going to visit? If they can do that, it reduces your risk. Are you able to isolate for that period of time before going to visit? There's so much complexity in this process. It means we've got to think well in advance of things that in the past, we used to just pick up and do.
So those are some things that I would suggest. And even when you're there, and if you've been isolating, to follow the protocols to reduce risk. And that is the distancing, wearing masks, frequent washing of hands. Those are things that are all very important. But Albert, I'm with you. I love my grandkids and it is sure hard not seeing them as often as we did before.
Bill Walsh: Yeah, it sure is. All right, Jean, do we have another caller on the line?
Jean Setzfand: We do. It's Michaelanne from California.
Bill Walsh: Hi, welcome to the show. Go ahead with your question.
Michaelanne: Hi, thanks for taking this. I never actually received the stimulus checks at all, and I'm wondering, where do I go to inquire more about it? I have looked into it, and it said there were 30,000 to 50,000 people still waiting for theirs, and that was maybe a month ago. So when they're talking about a second one, I still haven't received the first. Where did I go wrong?
Bill Walsh: All right. Well, let's ask Jean Chatzky. Jean, do you have any insight for Michaelanne in California?
Jean Chatzky: Yeah. So Michaelanne, your recourse, unfortunately at this point for that first stimulus is going to be on when you file your 2020 tax returns. The first stimulus payment, and my guess is the second stimulus payment, will be essentially a credit on your 2020 tax return. And you will be able to claim it when you file next year. Now for the next round of payments, my guess is that the IRS will again have a place for people to type in their information to receive direct deposit payments, to update their address. I would absolutely go ahead and try to do that. But there may be some reason that the IRS is basing its knowledge of your finances on either 2018 or 2019, and it thinks, for whatever reason, that you earned too much money to qualify, and you're going to have to show them that you didn't.
Bill Walsh: It sounds like she's trying to check up on that. Should she call the IRS directly? Is there another resource she should check?
Jean Chatzky: She can certainly try to call the IRS, directly. There is a tab on the IRS website, it's irs.gov, and you can click it. It says, "Get My Payment." And you'll go through a series of questions. You'll be asked to type in your Social Security number, your date of birth, your street address, and I would go through that process. But what we've been told in conversations with the IRS is that there are so few people in the office that they are not really manning the phones at this point, and I don't believe that that has changed.
Bill Walsh: One other thing, Michaelanne, you might try is to reach out to your congressional representative. This is their job. And if you feel that you were eligible for a stimulus check and didn't get it, reach out to your congressional representative and they should get on the case and get the IRS's attention for you. So, Jean, do we have another question in the queue?
Jean Setzfand: Absolutely. Here is a question from Facebook and we've found a few questions focused on vaccines. So I'm going to choose one that's more representative, coming from Elaine. She's asking, "There's a great deal of pressure to produce a vaccine. How can we be sure the early products actually meet the needs of the public, that they actually have met strict criteria?"
Bill Walsh: Dr. Brooks, do you have any thoughts on that?
Oliver Tate Brooks: Yes. First of all, we're in a situation where there's a pandemic where we have more than 3 million cases in the U.S. and more than 150,000 deaths. So there is pressure to develop a vaccine. So I think that you have to start with that. I am actually involved somewhat with the issues regarding this. The FDA will give a clear review of the data, specifically safety and effectiveness. There will be clinical trials that will involve generally all races, ethnicities, all individuals. It's going to be large; it should be thousands and thousands of people. We will know what we know. I believe that over time as the vaccine gets rolled out, we will see the safety and efficacy come through. But I can assure you from direct interaction that the CDC, NIH and the FDA are all monitoring this very closely.
One last thing I'll add … as it relates to vaccines, one of the things that delays them coming to the market in general is part of the time from initial development to release to the market is manufacturing. So a company won't start manufacturing a vaccine until they know that it is ready to go to the market. The government has provided funding to some of the companies to go in and start manufacturing it, and if it doesn't work, we'll just throw it away. So the fact that we're getting years off of the process by allowing companies to start manufacturing something that they don't even know for sure will work, they've gotten government monies to do that. I think that that's an important thing to understand how a vaccine can come to market so rapidly. There has been government financial support for this.
Ultimately, it's tough, because we need a vaccine. There's just generally clear evidence that the only way that we’re going to get past COVID-19 is with a vaccine. So I would say that believe that we're doing the right thing in a difficult situation. And when the vaccine comes out, you will know that through many means that it is safe and effective.
Bill Walsh: OK, thank you, Dr. Brooks. Jean, do we have another question in the queue?
Jean Setzfand: Yes, we have Mary from Tennessee.
Bill Walsh: Hi, Mary, go ahead with your question.
Mary: You were talking about the fraud, you know, people frauding people out of their stimulus checks. What about the nursing homes? You know that my mother is in a nursing home and I know she got a stimulus check, but they said they keep it, but you can't get it. They just keep the stimulus check. But do they use this stimulus check?
Bill Walsh: You mean the nursing home is keeping your mother's stimulus check?
Mary: Yes, I think they say I can't get it. The only way I can get it, is if I buy her something and bring the receipt, or if something happened, then I could get it.
Bill Walsh: Let's ask Jean Chatzky about that. What are your thoughts on what Mary's talking about?
Jean Chatzky: Oh, it doesn't sound kosher, for lack of a better word, to me. I don't know who you're speaking with at the nursing home, but I would get in touch with the person who runs the nursing home and see if you can get a clearer answer to that question. If you can't, I would report this both to your local area authority on aging and your local attorney general's office because it sounds as if they have taken possession of these funds that do not belong to them.
Bill Walsh: Yeah, Dr. Hebert, do you have any thoughts on this?
Warren Hebert: I'm not familiar with the particulars in the nursing home setting, Bill, so I really don't have anything to offer on, on how they handle the finances for patients there.
Bill Walsh: I will let Mary and other listeners know that every state has a long-term care ombudsman program and these folks are independent of the nursing homes. This system was set up to have them advocate on behalf of consumers. So that's another resource Mary and others can reach out to for a whole slew of questions or concerns they might have with nursing homes in their state. For Mary, we have the phone number for the long-term care ombudsman in Tennessee and that is 866-552-4464. Thank you for the quick work from the AARP staff in getting that information to us.
OK, Jean Chatzky, did you have something else you wanted to add?
Jean Chatzky: I did want to say that the IRS actually issued an advisory warning about this to basically note that these payments belong to the recipients, they do not belong to the nursing home, they do not belong to the assisted-living facility. So I would follow up with that resource in Tennessee just to make sure that you get the money that is due to you for your parent.
Bill Walsh: Thanks for that information, Jean. This has been an informative discussion, and thanks to each of you for answering our questions. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of the question and answer session, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus starting tomorrow on August 7. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you will find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. I just wanted to ask our guests if they had any closing thoughts before we sign off. Dr. Brooks?
Oliver Tate Brooks: Yes. Thank you. I have three or four. First of all, thank you for hosting this. To those listening, be patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint. To the caller that said they wanted to visit their grandchildren, I would say make those contacts that were stated by Dr. Hebert — Zoom, FaceTime. I have a friend who's reading a Harry Potter [book] from beginning to end to his grandchildren, and they're looking forward to this. They love it. So there are ways to connect without exposing yourself.
Number two, obtain credible information. The information you're getting on this call is credible information. Always question things that don't make sense.
Number three, advocate for yourself and for others. Hold your public officials accountable, and put those in positions of authority you feel will look after your best interests.
And lastly, keep up these infection control procedures and policies. Wear a mask when you go out. With a mask, it stops you from spreading to others, so it shows that you care, because I want to end with this — we are all in this together. We are going through this together, and we will only get out of it if we work together collectively.
Bill Walsh: All right, Dr. Brooks. Thank you for that. Dr. Hebert, any closing thoughts or recommendations?
Warren Hebert: I'll echo Dr. Brooks in saying, thank you. Family caregivers across the nation are dealing with extra challenges as you indicated a little bit earlier, Bill. They need to know how important their work is. The home is the safest place for someone to be right now. That's well documented, and it's also the safest place for care. In the past, the most prudent thing to do if somebody began to have symptoms was to get to an urgent care, ER or hospital right away. Today that's not the most prudent thing to do. The prudent first step would be to engage someone like Dr. Brooks in a telehealth, telemedicine visit. That reduces the load on hospitals, ER and urgent care, and it mitigates your risk as a caregiver and the person you're caring for.
And the last thing I'll do is to echo what Dr. Brooks said. I had already written it down before you said it, Dr. Brooks, and that is this is going to be a long-term experience, and I'm telling people it's not a sprint, it's not a marathon, it might be an ultra-marathon, a hundred miles or more. If we expect this to be months, maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised if it happens earlier. But if we're expecting this to just last a few more months, then we'll be disappointed and that impacts our judgment. So we certainly need to keep ourselves in a good place from the standpoint of our mental health and well-being.
And I'll add that this is not a hoax, it's not a conspiracy. This is a very real risk for people. My own brother has been hospitalized this past week, and our family is very concerned about his well-being. This is not a hoax, it's not a conspiracy. This is very real. So be cautious about where you're getting your information. Bill, thanks again to AARP for all of its good work.
Bill Walsh: Sure. Thank you, Dr. Hebert, and our thoughts are with your brother for a speedy recovery. Jean Chatzky, any closing thoughts or recommendations?
Jean Chatzky: Absolutely. And again, thank you so much for inviting me to be back with you today. I learned a lot listening to Dr. Brooks and Dr. Hebert. I wanted to just add something to the concept of self-care that Dr. Hebert raised earlier. When it comes to our financial lives, these are incredibly stressful times. Survey after survey after survey shows that we are more stressed out than we think we are, and we are above many things, more stressed out about our finances. We can get it under control by doing two things. One is by taking control of those things that we can control. Largely that means you're spending. It means paying very close attention to your numbers. It means keeping track, and it means being vigilant. But the second thing is, and it's a health tip, not a finance tip; get outside and just move. Exercise is the number one stress reducer. It does not have to cost you any money at all. Just go for a walk, go for a nice socially distanced walk, and you will watch your blood pressure start to drop.
Bill Walsh: All right. Thanks, Jean Chatzky. That was a nice note to end our program on, and thank you to our entire panel for the advice and suggestions. And thank you to our listeners. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please be sure to tune in on Wednesday, August 19 at 7:00 PM Eastern Time for a special live event with the Property Brothers. Join us for discussion on how you can make your house a home for a lifetime. Thank you to all of our listeners and guests. Have a good day. This concludes our call.