The U.S. coronavirus or Covid-19 breakout seems to have started in a long-term care facility in Washington State. Many from that facility passed away as a result of the disease or related complications, highlighting the effects on the elderly and the importance of proper precautions in nursing homes and other care facilities.
In Italy, around one-fourth of the population is considered elderly, and that country has faced a dire situation surrounding the disease outbreak.
Covid-19 can be particularly challenging for older people because they may have a weakened immune system and be more susceptible to respiratory illness. As was the case with SARS, what we tend to see is that people with underlying conditions and especially ones that are related to the lungs have a more difficult time coping with the effects of respiratory viruses.
In China, which has largely slowed the virus based on news reports, early findings showed the median age of people who died was 75.
Of course, this doesn’t mean younger people can’t be affected, particularly if they have underlying conditions but it means that for older people, even more precautions may be needed.
If you have a loved one who’s older, you might want to help them stay safe and healthy, and the following are some tips to consider.
General Tips to Reduce Risks
Most of the things that older people can do to reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19 are the same as what younger people can do.
Avoid contact with people who are sick, don’t touch your face, eyes, and mouth, and stay home if you’re sick.
If you cough or sneeze, cover it with a tissue and then dispose of the tissue, and regularly clean and disinfect items that are touched.
If you’re not over the age of 60, but you want to do your part in general, recognize the seriousness of Covid-19 and while you shouldn’t panic, you should be cautious.
If you don’t have soap and water available, you should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
While most states have enacted shut-downs of events and restaurants and stores are closing, still, keep in mind that it’s a good idea to avoid crowds and especially crowds that occur in poorly ventilated spaces. In crowded settings with limited air circulation, you can be at greater risk of getting sick if others there are sick.
The term social distancing is something everyone should be focused on right now and especially vulnerable populations.
Social distancing means avoiding gatherings of more than ten people currently and staying home as much as possible.
For older people, it may be a time to distance yourself from your younger family members, including grandchildren, as difficult as that can be.
Children and younger people can be carriers of Covid-19 without realizing it or showing symptoms, and they can put their older family members and loved ones at risk.
If there are older people in your family and you want to support them, there are many things you can do.
One is to help them get the supplies, food, and things they need to their home. You can leave it at their doorstep to minimize contact, or arrange for a delivery service to bring them needed items.
Make sure that your loved one has all of the medications they need, and if they don’t, maybe you can make a trip to the pharmacy for them.
If your loved one is in a care facility, you should speak with the people who work there about how they prevent the spread of infection and what steps they’ll take if there is an outbreak.
Since it can be lonely to isolate yourself, regardless of age, encourage your loved ones to use FaceTime or Skype to stay in touch, and regularly check in with them by video chat. If video chat isn’t an option, call them at least once a day.
Finally, help your loved ones to understand what the symptoms of the virus are, and what they should do if they experience these symptoms.
They should stay home and contact their health care provider first, and not go straight to the doctor or hospital, because this can put others at risk.
If someone isn’t so sick that they require hospitalization, they can recover from the virus at home, but they may need even more support from you as they do so.
Everyone can pitch in to help make this easier for the people they love with simple strategies.