Coronavirus and Seniors
The coronavirus strain COVID-19 has understandably caused fear and panic, particularly among seniors, their family, and their caretakers. Seniors are at a much higher risk of becoming fatally sick after contracting the novel (new) virus. Underlying health conditions and an aging immune system make it hard to cope with any illness and this appears to be particularly so with COVID-19.
8 out of every 10 deaths reported in the U.S that occurred as a result of the coronavirus have been in adults 65 and older. COVID-19 can be transmitted by people who have no symptoms of having caught the virus, and because of its rapid spread, it is more important now than ever for nursing home staff and other care providers to be vigilant about proper hygiene practices.
Seniors Living at Home With or Without In-Home Care:
- Wash Your Hands, Even if You Are Isolated
Remember that hand washing is essential to prevent the spread of the disease. Even though you may be isolated at home, things like groceries, money, mail, and deliveries can carry the deadly virus as well. Your Care staff and Caregivers must also remember to wash their hands before touching anything in your household and every time they touch something that has even the smallest chance of exposure.
- Remember to Clean and Disinfect All Surfaces
The easiest way to make sure you do not get sick is to clean, clean, clean. Make sure to wash not only your hands, but also be vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting your home regularly. Caretakers and staff should also take care to stay on top of disinfecting common areas and helping residents with mobility issues stay as clean as possible.
The areas you need to disinfect most often are the ones that are touched frequently. These surfaces may include:
- Kitchen and bathroom faucets
- Doorknobs and handles
- Computer keyboards and mice
- Remote controls
- Light Switches
- Drawer handles and cabinet knobs
- Window blind adjusters
- Bathroom surfaces
After you disinfect surfaces, remember to wash your hands!
Worship at Home
For those who rely on their faith to get them through the hard times, not going to a community worship gathering is going to be difficult. However, many corporate worship programs have established ways to bring your service to your home. Reach out to a friend or pastoral staff to help to get you connected to your worship services so that may participate with those who share your faith.
Call Your Doctor Before Going In
Doctors and hospitals are requesting that you call before going in, even if you are sick. For symptoms that are not related to COVID-19, they can often hold your appointment over the phone or via video chat. If you do have COVID-19 symptoms, health care professionals will need to take extra precautions before and during your arrival, such as having you enter through a separate entrance and preparing a private room.
Don’t Forget the Mail
When you bring in the mail, be extra vigilant just like you would be for groceries. Disinfect everything, and be sure to wash your hands properly. Coronavirus can live on cardboard over 24 hours, so be careful of how you handle and where you put empty boxes.
Even when self-quarantining, grocery shopping will probably be necessary at some point. Take steps to protect yourself and those you love. Many stores are offering special shopping hours for seniors and people with compromised immune systems. Most grocers are opening their stores one hour early for seniors to ensure the store is as sterile as possible when they shop since they disinfect overnight. Stay vigilant about washing and disinfecting everything you bring home, as well as washing your hands and disinfecting your doorknobs and other touched surfaces after grocery shopping.
Be conscious about not touching your face, especially during and after grocery shopping. COVID-19 can survive for long periods of time on surfaces, so even if you weren’t within 6 feet of anyone, you may still have touched something that came in contact with the virus. Wash your hands immediately after arriving home.
If You are in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility
Under guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, senior facilities including skilled nursing (also known as nursing homes), assisted living, memory care, and independent living have generally taken specific steps to protect their residents or patients and staff. In addition to steps listed above, visitation from outside the facility may be reduced or even eliminated.
Follow the same guidelines, above, for those who reside at home. Much of the same applies to those who live in Assisted Living Communities and rely on food preparation and mail deliveries.
If your community has you basically isolated don’t cut off contact with your family or friends. Maintain communication via phone or if possible, use a video call.
Care for Your Mental Health
If you are feeling scared and overwhelmed, remember that your mental health is important as well. And remember, although we are unsure of when, this will end. As we have seen in social media and the news, take breaks and try to include activities that are good for your mental health in your day. Things like doing hobbies you enjoy, calling friends and family members, and even just making sure to get enough sleep will help ensure you are able to cope with the events happening around the world.
Be Aware of Scams
There always those who take advantage of other in times of crisis and our seniors are attractive targets for scammers. Be aware for scams that could arise during this pandemic. In particular protect your Medicare number and only give it to your doctor, health care provider, and those you trust. Be cautious of anyone offering free coronavirus testing, supplies or treatments. Don’t fall for time sensitive offers or any scare tactics.
Most senior centers are closed but many are sharing information with their older adult communities. The National Council on Aging has current information on COVID-19 Resources for Senior Centers.
Steps You Can Take to Avoid Illness
There are important steps you can take to avoid this highly contagious illness, especially if you are in a high-risk category. These include:
Staying home is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People are self-quarantining across the country and the world. Do not accept visitors with the exception of caretakers and essential staff, and make sure they wash their hands immediately upon entering the room.
- Wash Your Hands Often
Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Make sure to wash your hands after you go grocery shopping, pick up the mail, or touch often-used surfaces such as doorknobs and light switches. Many people wash their hands incorrectly; make sure you are spending at least 20 seconds scrubbing each part of your hands and wrists, including under your fingernails.
- Avoid Touching Your Face
Most people touch their face many times a day. You need to be extra careful and aware of what you are doing with your hands during this time. Touching your face after touching surfaces is one of the fastest ways to get sick with anything, but particularly relevant now, because of how highly contagious coronavirus is.
- Social Distancing
COVID-19 can be spread from people up to six feet away. Make sure you are practicing social distancing, and stay 6 feet away from people, even at the grocery store. Do not hug or shake hands with anyone.
Resources for Seniors, Families and Caregivers
- Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions
- White House Coronavirus (COVID-19) Taskforce
- Common Questions and Answers About COVID-19 for Older Adults and People with Chronic Health Conditions, created by the Alliance for Aging Research and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. (downloadable PDF)
- COVID-19: What Older Adults Need to Know – Dr. Jay Butler, CDC’s Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases, talks about what older adults need to know about the virus (YouTube video)
- Guidance for Retirement Communities and Independent Living from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in Retirement Communities and Independent Living Facilities (interim guidance – CDC)
- SMP Consumer Fraud Alert: COVID-19
- SMP Consumer Fraud Alert: Genetic Testing
Senioridy is Here to Help
Senioridy is free to use if you need information related to senior living choices or in-home senior care. We encourage you to call any facilities you are considering, as most senior care facilities are changing their policies by the da and tours may not be available. You can use the Senioridy online research directory to compile a list of facilities that meet your criteria.