The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been the top priority in the planning and shaping of our lives. The SARS-CoV-2 virus causes the disease. A vast majority of people infected with the virus experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without special treatment. However, it can also lead to severe illness and require medical attention. Although this virus doesn’t discriminate and can cause serious illness or even death at any age, older adults are more susceptible to develop severe illness from COVID-19. People suffering from underlying medical conditions like diabetes, chronic respiratory or cardiovascular disease, and cancer also have a higher risker of becoming severely ill. (1)
There are indications that older adults have a higher chance of being hospitalized with serious illness. The risk increases in people in their 50s and continues to go up in their 60s to 80s. Individuals over the age of 85 are the most likely to become very ill. (2) You want your older family members to feel safe and know that they are protected. There are things that you can do to prevent and slow down the spread of COVID-19, specifically among the elderly. First, let’s look at how this disease is transmitted.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
Viruses are transmitted in different ways. One of the best things you can do to help prevent infection is to know how a particular disease is spread. The coronavirus is spread through airborne droplets from an infected person. The infected droplets can be breathed in by others or get in their eyes, nose, or mouth. In some cases, people can get infected by touching contaminated surfaces. You are at a greater risk of contamination when you are close to an infected person. Keeping at least six apart is what we know as “social distancing.”
The CDC recognizes three main ways that COVID-19 is spread. (3)
- Breathing in the air when in close proximity to an infected person who exhales tiny droplets and particles with the virus.
- When small, infected droplets and particles get in a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, especially when splashed or sprayed through a cough or sneeze.
- Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with a hand that has the virus.
When taking care of older individuals and those conformed to the home, it is critical to be informed and mindful of how this disease is spread and take the necessary measures to prevent transmission.
How to Protect Yourself and Older Adults from Coronavirus
It’s imperative that caregivers and family members of older adults take preventive steps to prevent coronavirus and protect themselves and loved ones. Since the widespread of this disease at the beginning of 2020, vaccines have been developed to protect individuals from the coronavirus. In addition, to be vaccinated, there are other ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. (2)
Wear a mask
It is recommended that masks be worn, specifically in indoor public spaces. You want to make sure that the mask is well-fitted and not too loose. When receiving in-home care, older adults and their caregivers should make sure to wear a mask and maintain six feet distance when possible.
Limit in-person interactions
Another good practice to protect older adults from contracting the COVID-19 virus is limiting their in-person interactions, particularly indoors. If an older person is receiving in-home care, it is usually with one assigned caregiver, so making attempts to social distance, when possible, can be achieved. You will also want to encourage outdoor interactions and activities if your loved one can do so. Being outdoors allows for more breathing space, social distancing, and limits contact.
Social distance from other people
In our new way of life, we are more mindful of social distancing. We are advised to stay six feet apart, or two arm lengths, to stop the spread of the virus. This distance can help protect older adults by keeping them a safe distance from a potentially infected person and surfaces that can become contaminated.
The sanitary practice of washing your hands with soap and water was essential to our health long before COVID-19, and it is even more so now. If your older family member is homebound and receiving care, it is a good practice to keep soap in stock and available to the caregiver and your loved one. If soap and water are not available, for example, during transportation to a doctor’s visit or during an outing, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching your face
As mentioned earlier, when contaminated droplets get on our hands, we can become infected by touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with hands that haven’t been washed. Talk to your loved ones about making some adjustments and being mindful of when they touch their face. This may not be easy depending on their condition, so you will have to be patient and maybe a little creative with helping them to adjust. Speak with your home care agency and their assigned caregiver about any habits they may have, and make sure that they are on the same page with the best ways to communicate this to your loved one.
Cover coughs and sneezes
Droplets are spread when splashed in the form of a cough or sneeze. Make sure you cover up your coughs and sneezes to protect your older family members and yourself. Wearing a mask helps prevent this type of spread, but if a mask is not worn, use a clean tissue or the inside of your elbow, and make sure to wash with soap and water.
We spoke about contaminated surfaces that can lead to infection. Caregivers tend to do light housekeeping, so check with the home health agency about their covid-19 protocols when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting highly touched surfaces while their employee is in your home. Don’t just rely on the home health aide to do all the cleaning. Sanitize and disinfect your home regularly as an added layer of protection for your elderly family member.
What To Do If You or Your Elderly Loved One Gets Sick
Make sure that you are following the doctor’s instructions when it comes to providing care and medicine. Let the home health agency know if your loved one is elderly and has contracted covid-19 or someone else in the house has the disease. You may have to take over some of the duties until your loved one gets better. Most people’s symptoms last a few days, and they start to feel better after about a week. Older people’s symptoms may be worse.
Over-the-counter medications can help with fever. Make sure the sick person is drinking a lot of fluids and getting plenty of rest. You can also provide care for them by running errands like grocery shopping and getting their prescriptions filled. Several delivery services can provide service, too, so you won’t have to leave home. If there are pets in the house, make sure they are taken care of and have limited contact with the person who has the virus. (4)
Avoid Coronavirus Scams by Keeping Up to Date On Important Information
The elderly population is often targeted when it comes to scams. In order to avoid becoming a victim, it’s important to not only keep up with COVID-19 health safety precautions and preventive methods, but also what to do to protect themselves from the various scams that are out there. The Federal Trade Commission has some tips on how to avoid scammers when it comes to the coronavirus. (5)
- COVID-19 vaccinations are free, and you should not be charged for them. If someone tries to charge you for a vaccination shot, it is a scam.
- The vaccines are only available at federal and state-approved locations. Stay away from places that offer to sell or administer a vaccination to patients outside of these locations.
- If you are looking for ways to treat the coronavirus, contact your doctor or healthcare professional before trying any products claiming to treat this disease.
- Keep your vaccination information and card private. Do not post on social media. This mistake can lead to identity theft.
- Do not provide your personal information to anyone offering a national vaccine certificate or passport. There are no official plans to develop a national vaccine verification app, certificate, or passport.
- Contact your state government and be familiar with their vaccine verification plans and requirements.
- If you or your older family are planning a trip or going to an event, reach out to the airline, cruise line, or event venue and ask about their vaccine verification or testing requirements.
- You want to get the correct information and not be a victim of misinformation. When researching help and resources regarding the pandemic, go to reliable government-run websites.
Elite Care at Home is a home health agency servicing Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe Counties in South Florida. If you or your loved one is worried about protecting older adults from COVID-19 while getting in-home care, we can help. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and concerns regarding the care and protection of your loved ones. Contact us today to speak with one of our members or to set up a consultation.
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