When your loved ones won’t take COVID seriously

Published in Wellness Tag:

Author: Staff

Despite the warnings, despite the science, despite the pleading by health officials, we all have people in our lives who refuse to take COVID-19 seriously. Their comments range anywhere from simple annoyance to outright rebellion:

  • “I hate wearing a mask. It’s uncomfortable and I can’t breathe.”
  • “I’m young and healthy, so I won’t get it.”
  • “If I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it. You have to live.”
  • “If someone is worried about getting COVID, just stay home.”
  • “We need to build herd immunity.”
  • “This whole pandemic is politically motivated.”

So, how can we come together and start this conversation? How can we get past the misinformation, shaming, and scare tactics so we can find a common middle ground?

The simple truth is, these conversations need to happen because lives are at stake. As flu season approaches and we move indoors, local healthcare providers are stressed about what the future will look like if the trajectory continues to go in the wrong direction.

So, let’s talk. Here are a few scenarios and some helpful pointers to get the conversation started.

Use “I” not “You”

Instead of saying “You shouldn’t be going out to eat so often,” try saying “I get worried when you’re indoors and around other people.” Using “You” tends to put people on the defensive and will shut down the conversation before it even gets started. The fact is, being indoors with other people for a prolonged period of time (more than 15 minutes) is risky. That risk increases when people aren’t wearing masks or practicing safe physical distancing (six feet). Of course, we all want to support our favorite restaurants and small businesses, so consider takeout, online ordering, and curbside pickup, which are all safer alternatives.

Put the focus on others

If someone refuses to wear a mask because it’s uncomfortable or insists that they’re healthy so they’re not afraid of getting COVID, try to gently explain that we’re taking these precautions to save others, not just ourselves. Ask them to imagine how they’d feel if they inadvertently spread the virus to an elderly relative or immune-compromised friend. Also remind them that wearing a mask is the simplest thing we can do to help slow the spread. Until a vaccine is available, our own prevention efforts are the best way forward.

Share your fears

Whether it’s your spouse, parent, teenager or other loved one, it’s important to be honest and let them know how you feel. Soften your tone, listen, don’t be accusatory, and avoid a guilt trip. It’s not about who’s right or who’s wrong. It’s about caring, affection, empathy and understanding. Remember, there are two sides to every issue, and they have a right to their opinion, too. The key is to keep the conversation going and keep showing them you care.

Get your facts straight

Many people insist that the population will be better off if everyone just gets the virus, develops antibodies, and builds “herd immunity.” Any healthcare worker will tell you that’s a terrible idea. Hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities simply do not have the staff or capacity to care for that many sick people all at once. Typically, herd immunity is achieved through vaccination and requires that at least 70% of the population is immune to the disease to prevent it from spreading. That percentage varies depending on the specific disease. According to the World Health Organization, measles requires about 95% of the population to be vaccinated, whereas the threshold for polio is closer to 80%. If even 1-3% of our local population became ill all at once, it would absolutely devastate our healthcare system.

Use trusted resources

For those who insist that COVID-19 is a political issue, use facts that come from sources you know they already trust. Citing facts from your favorite news station won’t be nearly as effective as sharing a story from a person or organization they already follow and trust. The facts are out there from both sides; the key is to present them in a way that will be most readily accepted.

Focus on things you can control

There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities. Although it’s important to try and have this conversation with your loved ones, it’s equally important to recognize when it’s time to move on. At the end of the day, your relationship with your loved one is what really matters. If the constant worry and stress is starting to affect your daily life, it may be time to talk to your doctor or other health professional. These are definitely unprecedented times, and the mental health challenges are many. Remember to be gentle with yourself, take time to do the things you love, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.