Mika: Helping my 88-year-old mother through the coronavirus pandemic

"I miss hugging my mom, but it’s not possible right now," says the Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host. "In this crisis, there are some people who must be managed from afar. My mother is one of those people."
Mika and her mother, Emilie practicing social distancing.
Mika and her mother, Emilie practicing social distancing.Emilie Garner

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By Mika Brzezinski

My mom is a fighter. While in many ways she has lived an exceedingly fortunate life, she has also suffered hardship and loss. She has grappled with the death of her husband. She is living with Parkinson’s. And now, like all too many older Americans, she is living in the frightening shadow of coronavirus.

As I’ve written before on Know Your Value, my mom is an artist who lives nearby me in Florida. She sculpts massive pieces. She works with a chainsaw, axe and chisel. She’s tough as hell, and refuses to let these uncertain times get in her way. Even in the face of this pandemic, she eagerly wants to have a show to roll out some of her signature pieces, “Mother Earth” and “Lament.” They truly are masterpieces.

Mika's mother Emilie Brzezinski next to her sculpture called "Lament."Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski

My mother’s art is her lifeline. Being with her tools and creations is a must, but exposure to other people could be life-threatening. Her advanced age puts her at much higher risk. Since some people can be carriers of the virus without showing any symptoms, I can’t take any chances. Last week I taught her the “elbow bump.” This week, we aren’t even doing that.

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When I am with my mom, I stay six to eight feet away, which is difficult (and also humorous because she can be hard of hearing).

Mika, her mom (Emilie Brzezinski), Emilie Garner, and Andrew Scarborough going for a walk while practicing social distancing.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski

We also bike together—but at a distance. She meets me outside her garage, and off we go. When we’re done, she rolls back into her garage and I bike home. I don’t go inside and we never touch.

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I miss hugging my mom, but it’s not possible right now. In this crisis, there are some people who must be managed from afar. My mother is one of those people.

Coronavirus is clearly on her mind. She’s always watching the news about it, and asked me a week ago if she was going to get it. I assured her we were taking all the necessary precautions, including social distancing.

Mika's 88-year-old mother.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski

I know I'm lucky to be able to see my mom, especially during this difficult time when so many around the world are unable to see their loved ones.

It's part of the reason I recently spoke to emergency physician Dr. Leanna Wen and "Morning Joe" chief medical correspondent Dr. Dave Campbell to get their advice on caring for an older parent during this pandemic, especially if they live in a nursing home.

“Keep older parents away from crowds, and don’t invite people over to the house. Limit social interactions to a minimum,” Dr. Wen told me.

Dr. Campbell added that “older folks living under the same roof as younger people are at grave risk.” He advised, “Divide up the house. Rotate time in the kitchen. Wear masks at the first temperature spike with anyone. If someone tests positive, develop even more strict social distancing.”

Is this inconvenient? Absolutely. But it’s also necessary in order to save lives.

How are you managing with your older parents? I’d love to hear from you! Tell us at knowyourvalue@nbcuni.com