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COVID-19 and Older Adults: 10 Tips for Families

Adults 65 and older are at higher risk for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s a trend we’ve seen around the world and here in the United States: 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults over the age of 65. That’s a scary statistic for more than 49 million residents across the country – and the family members who care for and love them.

Whether your loved one is at home with you or in a nursing home, medical facility or living on their own, you can take steps to keep the older adults in your family healthy and safe.

Here are 10 tips to help protect older adults from COVID-19:

1. Help them limit contact with others.

The fewer people older adults come in contact with, the better the chances they have of staying healthy. Help them limit contact with others:

  • Prepare meals, so they don’t have to cook.
  • Provide entertaining activities like puzzles, movies or books to read.
  • Run errands for them.
  • Share the latest news from credible sources about COVID-19 in your community, so they understand the benefits of staying home.

If you’re caring for an older parent at home, everyone in your family must take social distancing seriously. Be sure to keep at least six feet between you and others when out in public. And only go out when necessary.

2. Wash your hands frequently.

It may seem a little condescending to remind your parents to wash their hands, but the science is clear: Washing hands can save lives. Remember:

  • Always wash your hands
    • After using the restroom.
    • Before preparing food or eating.
    • After cleaning.
    • After coughing or blowing your nose.
  • Scrub all parts of the hand — palms, fingers, between fingers, under fingernails, thumbs and wrists.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

3. Disinfect high touch surfaces.

The CDC recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces with a disinfectant at least once a day. This includes:

  • Countertops
  • Doorknobs
  • Electronics (including phones)
  • Faucets
  • Light switches
  • Remote controls
  • Toilet handles

4. Avoid sick people.

Encourage older family members to avoid people who are actively coughing, sneezing or experiencing cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms. If your family member is living with you, your entire household should also take steps to avoid people who are ill.

5. Connect over technology.

Older adults are often the ones who are the most socially isolated, and measures like social distancing can make that isolation feel even worse. Take advantage of technology to connect with loved ones who are staying healthy at home. There are many easy ways to set up video conferencing or FaceTime so that you can see and connect with the family members you love.

6. Show your love through the mail.

Mail carriers and delivery people are hard at work during this pandemic to safely bring letters and packages to our homes. Spend a few minutes writing a letter to an older family member and even consider including a special piece of artwork from your children. Then, send it in the mail for a special surprise that lets your older family members know you love them and are thinking about them.

7. Brighten their space (safely).

Draw with chalk outside your older family member’s window or hang a sign nearby. This simple act of kindness can brighten someone’s day, especially when they’re missing regular visits with you and your family.

8. Stock up on essential supplies.

Make sure your older family members have essentials on hand. While there’s no need to hoard essential items, your loved one will need to keep a stock of everyday items, including cleaners, food and, yes, toilet paper. This helps limit trips to the grocery store and cuts down on interactions with others out in public.

9. Refill prescriptions.

Many states, including Georgia, have relaxed timing constraints on prescription medications. For example, if you normally must wait 30 days before you can refill your prescription, you may now be able to refill it early. This enables healthy individuals, and those at risk of complications from COVID-19, to limit unnecessary trips. Be sure your family members have the prescriptions they need to avoid public spaces during a community outbreak of COVID-19.

10. Know what to do if symptoms appear.

COVID-19 spreads very easily, which is why it’s essential to do everything you can to avoid getting sick. It’s important to take a few minutes to plan for older adults in case they start to show symptoms of COVID-19, including:

  • Make sure older adults know how to recognize symptoms.
  • Older adults should call 911 if they experience severe symptoms, including:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Pain or pressure in the chest
    • Confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
  • Older adults should call their primary care provider if they begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Visit cdc.gov/COVID19 to keep up with the latest news and recommendations regarding the virus.

Tanner Health System, Behavioral Health Care, Primary Care

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