Double Take: What Now for Those Who Are Vulnerable?

A dialogue with ROWENA J. RONSON

RJR: No one has the answers – the government, the scientists, the hospitals. What will happen after lockdown is eased, in terms of the virus, is unprecedented and unclear. What we do know is that we are headed for extremely uncertain times in terms of our health, and our economy. And what will happen to the vulnerable in all of this? Who is vulnerable? How can they be protected? Can they be protected? 

NS: As you say, there are no definite answers – to anything connected with this virus. Some are more vulnerable than others, because of factors such as age or other health conditions, but there is nothing to rule out any adult being at risk. And we can’t just shut the “vulnerable” away and leave it at that, can we? If we have relatives or friends who are “vulnerable”, our natural instinct is to want to take care of them and be there for them. But if doing that might put them at risk – and ourselves and others at risk – what are our options?

RJR: Any adult, and any child I would say. This is not fearmongering (as some would say). It is being realistic and cautious – in the knowledge that there is no knowledge on the subject of what and who is safe at the moment. I sit writing this in my bay window of my healing room overlooking the centre of St Albans. People are out and about and cars are refilling the roads. People are desperate to return to as near as normal as they can push it, in a country without rules and restrictions, it feels. I am sensing that those who lived without a thought for the consequences of their actions on others, will continue to do so. And I am very concerned for the vulnerable. Yes, I do feel that many of us should still stay at home, if we can, and observe what the next few weeks and months bring. Far better to be safe than sorry. My wish is for us to support the vulnerable in our families and close circles by being in regular contact, of course, and caring for them with lots of support emotionally. We should be making them the centre of our universe – and keeping them safe. 

NS: Absolutely. If you are travelling through a dark and dangerous forest, you don’t (one hopes) go running ahead regardless, as fast as you can… but you tread slowly and carefully, being all the time vigilant, keeping a lookout all around you, and taking care not to attract the attention of any predators that may be present. In short, caution is born out of common sense; it should not to be seen as a manifestation of weakness or cowardice. I wonder why some people see the present situation differently.

RJR: Well, it doesn’t help that our Prime Minister is encouraging us to Stay Alert without telling us what that actually means. My patients today have been very confused by that. What are your thoughts? 

NS: Stay Alert seems to hardly qualify as a message at all! No wonder they are confused! There seems to have been a wide range of views on what the next steps should be: ranging from continuing to stay locked down and quarantined where necessary… to the extreme of just reopening everything in order to repair the economy. There can’t be very many people who have actually enjoyed their liberty being curtailed, and almost everyone must want to get out of lockdown and be unconstrained – that is totally understandable. But if one is vulnerable or may have to be close to those who are vulnerable, then caution – the taking of every precaution possible – must be worthwhile. What is the down side? For example, there has been much toing and froing on whether the wearing of a mask in public makes a difference or not. But if there’s just a slender chance that it does have some benefit, why not do it? What is there to lose?

RJR: There is a lot to lose if we are not cautious. Our country seems to be split on that. As a daughter of elderly and vulnerable parents, who consider my intentions, to be protective and caring, as controlling, I have no idea how to keep them safe. I am speaking from my heart here. How can our Prime Minster not know how ambiguous his guidance is? Maybe he does, and is giving the choice back to each individual to decide. And they in turn will make a decision based on what they read in their chosen newspaper – which is worrying in itself. I am not used to feeling totally helpless. My patients listen to my guidance – to be cautious and to observe what happens over the next few weeks from the safety of their own homes. But my parents – they will not listen to me. It is devastating and frustrating, all at the same time.

NS: I think one awful side effect of the pandemic and its consequences has been to heighten stress for all of us, both as individuals and also within families. It is particularly difficult for those of us who have children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents… whom we want to be safe and well… and yet the very thing that we can’t do (if we have concerns about safety) is see them face to face and hold them close.

RJR: We cannot protect them from their own choices either. But their choices will impact their entire family. It is a time for us to learn how important it is to really be aware that we are all as one, and that what one person does – one moving part of the whole – affects the entire whole. It is now so obvious to see… but many still refuse to see it… 

NS: There is always the hope that a crisis will change people… and then we see the evidence that it often doesn’t. In this crisis, some people have become noticeably less selfish, while others have become noticeably more selfish. And now – with mixed messages about whether or not to stay at home, whether or not to go to work, whether or not to use public transport – it feels as if a self-centred lack of care about the welfare of others (and particularly the vulnerable) is driving events…

RJR: And there are the many people who are being forced to go back to work. We are being told not to use public transport… so how come the trains are full again with no possibility of social distancing and protection? Can you imagine how scary that experience is? For them, they have no choice. And then there are those that do have choice and have packed their bags to holiday in Devon. After all, it is too boring to stay at home, right? No matter that the disease will spread… 

NS: Wales is still very clearly telling holidaymakers and second-homers to stay away. In fact, all the rest of the UK (apart from England) is still saying: stay at home! I can’t imagine that people in Devon will welcome an influx of Londoners etc. But yes, there now seems danger of a sort of anarchy… with people acting without caring for the consequences on others – either deliberately or because they feel they have no choice. It seems that now, more than, ever we individually have to take the best actions we can for our own health and for the health of loved ones and the vulnerable.

RJR: That is exactly what I have been talking about with my patients. Take responsibility for ourselves, make safe decisions for ourselves, and for our family. Safety is paramount. The virus is here to stay for a long while. It will probably be next summer before we will experience some reprieve. What can we all do to stay safe? 

NS: Look after our own physical and mental wellbeing; support our immune systems as much as we possibly can; stay at home as we have been doing, only going out for essential reasons; behave responsibly and caringly in our contacts with others. I’m not sure what else there is that we can do… 

RJR: It is a good start. I guess to try and persuade others to stay safe too… which is why I wanted to write this article! Stay safe everyone. Wait this out. Observe the next few weeks from the safety of your own home. Nurture yourself, from the safety of your home. Don’t take risks by seeing anyone outside of your own home – unless you have to for work reasons. Stay safe. Keep your family safe. Anything else is simply not worth it. Don’t live in regret of what you did do these next few weeks. Live in gratitude for being cautious. Live in grace. Love to all. 

NS: Well said.

Rowena J Ronson (pictured above) is a practitioner offering an holistic integration of functional medicine, homeopathy and transformational coaching and counselling

Under the banner of “Double Take”, Rowena and Nigel have been jointly writing columns and dialogues for health journals and websites for the past 15 years.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at

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