How to keep safe our older family mambers. COVID-19
Older adults, 65 years and older, are at higher risk for severe illness. Research is showing that adults 60 and older, especially those with preexisting medical conditions, especially heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or cancer are more likely to have severe — even deadly — coronavirus infection than other age groups.
If you’re caring for an older loved one, you might be worried. Here is what you need to know to keep elderly people safer, and what to do if they do become infected with COVID-19.
Take care of yourself
First and most important, as a caretaker you should take all the precautions you can to avoid becoming infected yourself. Here are the basics:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after providing care, preparing food, using the bathroom, or touching surfaces in public places.
- Avoid crowds, and if you cough or sneeze, do so into the bend of your elbow or into a disposable tissue.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces in your home often, including mobility and medical equipment used by your loved one, such as walkers, canes and handrails.
Practice social distance but not social isolation
One important way to lower the risk of your older family members catching COVID-19 is to limit in-person visits. But this may be tough for older adults who cherish time spent with friends and family members.
We need to keep older adults safe, but also keep in mind that social isolation can have a negative impact on older people’s immunity and mental health.
Technology for Staying Connected
To help older adults feel involved, purposeful and less lonely during the pandemic:
- Show them how to video chat with others using smartphones, laptops or tablets.
- Use apps on these devices to provide captions for adults with hearing challenges.
- Encourage friends and family outside of your household to telephone, write notes or send cards to lift your loved one’s spirits.
Decide on a plan
If you can, involve your older family member in discussions of how you’ll manage interruptions of routines and what will happen if they (or someone else in your family) becomes sick. Talking things through ahead of time as a family can reduce stress and help everyone feel more involved and prepared.
Pick an emergency contact. If you’re the main caregiver, designate someone nearby whom you could rely on to care for your elderly family member if you yourself become ill.
Stock up. Gather one months of medications, and at least two weeks’ worth of food, over-the-counter remedies, pet supplies, and other essentials. Find out which delivery services are available in your area.