Senior care facilities have been hit hard by COVID-19 and now test staff and prohibit visitors. Yet seniors who live with family or in their own homes need protection, too. Case counts continue to rise in some areas, so we must think about how to protect older adults from coronavirus.
Greater Risk Calls for Greater Precautions
The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new: it came on the scene when no one anywhere had immunity to it. Yet some people who test positive for exposure develop no symptoms while others suffer severe illness. Most vulnerable are people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions. So while everyone should take precautions, older adults and those who care for them should be especially vigilant.
Offer to do grocery shopping for elderly family or neighbors so they can avoid having to go out to grocery stores. Seniors should check with their doctors to see if they can stock up on prescription medications or check with their pharmacy to have them delivered. If you must enter an older adult’s home to provide care or deliveries, wear a mask, wash your hands immediately when you arrive, try to maintain a distance of six feet, and minimize touching surfaces in the home. Help by disinfecting surfaces you must touch, like doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and faucets.
Avoid Crowds and Travel
The primary mode of transmission for coronavirus is from person to person, though respiratory droplets exhaled or distributed when speaking, sneezing, coughing, laughing, singing, etc. The best way to protect older adults from coronavirus is to reduce risk is to reduce proximity to other people. For seniors, this kind of social distancing increases social isolation, which is already a problem for many. Keeping in touch with friends and family is especially important for seniors’ mental health. Use technology like video chats or just a simple phone call to stay in touch.
Worrying about exposure to coronavirus increases stress, and stress contributes to all sorts of health problems. Take a break from watching the news and practice deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or other forms of relaxation, and try to maintain healthy eating habits.
Exercise for those who are able may help them maintain physical strength and a positive mental outlook. Seniors who can take a walk outside in an uncrowded environment will benefit from a change in scenery and some healthy movement, so long as they maintain an appropriate distance from others. Keep in mind that surfaces in public places can collect a lot of germs from a lot of people. Try to avoid contact with benches, door handles, and picnic tables. Seniors who use canes as mobility aids should remember to not rest the cane on public surfaces, and to sanitize the cane as soon as they return home.
Precautions against contracting COVID-19 are likely to continue for a long time, until a safe and effective vaccine becomes widely available. In the meantime, seniors should plan for keeping enough supplies of food and medicine to enable staying home as much as possible. The plan should include how to stay in touch with family, friends, caregivers, and doctors.