Health Precautions for Older Adults Against COVID-19
As the coronavirus continues to spread, public health officials warn that adults 60 and over and those with underlying conditions remain the most vulnerable to the disease, even though it infects people of all ages.
Since coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mainly spreads through close contact with people, older adults are urged to take precautions by staying away from people who show common COVID-19 symptoms, such as dry cough and shortness of breath.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, reports that some people are asymptomatic, meaning they can transmit COVID-19 without having symptoms. This is one of the many reasons why guidelines were issued for older adults and people with a serious underlying health condition to stay home and away from other people.
Reducing the COVID-Risk While in Public Places
Governors nationwide have issued orders for residents to stay at home except to do essential tasks such as buying food or seeking medical care.
If you are an older adult or have an underlying health condition, public health officials suggest taking the following precautions should you have to leave home:
- 1. Follow distancing guidelines. Stay at least 3-feet to 6-feet away from people, especially those who appear sick. By maintaining this distance, you can avoid breathing in droplets from a cough or sneeze of a person infected with the coronavirus.
- 2. Pay attention to public surfaces. Use a disinfecting wipe or a clean tissue to touch a public door handle, gasoline pump, or a grocery cart. Throw the wipe or tissue in the trash after using it.
- 3. Avoid touching your face. Health experts say people can contract COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces with their hands, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, the entry points for coronavirus.
- 4. Avoid unnecessary air travel. Low airfare offers and discounts on cruises may seem tempting, but the CDC recommends placing non-essential travel on hold because of the risk of disease transmission in confined spaces on airplanes and cruise ships.
- 5. Use hand sanitizer. Take along hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol and use after each public place you visit. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. When you get home, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- 6. Cover your sneeze or cough. If you need to cough or sneeze in public, cover your mouth with a tissue or use your inner elbow to reduce the spread of germs.
- 7. Order prescription medication in advance. Health experts recommend getting a three-month supply of medication as well as groceries and other household items that can last for at least two weeks to make it easier to stay at home.
Since the virus began spreading nationwide, many doctor’s offices have canceled all non-essential visits. Some offices, however, offer virtual visits through a web-based portal where medical personnel can speak face-to-face over the internet with patients. Also, patients can also call health hotlines or send emails to their doctor’s offices.
If you want to refill your medication or have questions about your health, contact your doctor’s office for advice on the best way to communicate with medical personnel.
What if I Feel Sick?
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, the CDC recommends getting medical attention as soon as possible. Some of the most common coronavirus symptoms include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish lips or face
Before going to visit your doctor, call first to get instructions from your physician. Some doctors provide COVID-19 testing in their offices, while others are referring patients to COVID-19 testing sites.
If you have already been diagnosed with COVID-19 and feel as if you’re getting worse, contact your doctor’s office or dial 911 and tell the dispatcher that you have contracted COVID-19. Calling in advance helps your doctor’s office or first responders prepare to protect themselves before interacting with you.
Make a Plan
Public health officials recommend that adults of all ages create a plan on what to do in the event COVID-19 affects their household. This is especially important for older adults who live alone or have live-in caregivers.
Seniors who cannot care for themselves usually have caregivers who are in close contact with one or more family members. In this situation, caregivers and family members can work together to create a list of people and local medical facilities to contact in an emergency.
Getting other people involved in creating a plan helps reduce stress and lets you know that you are not alone during these challenging times.
Should My Family Visit?
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic may have you feeling isolated from your relatives, close friends, and community activities. It may feel even worse if you live alone.
So, should your family continue to stop by for social visits, or should you continue cooking the traditional family dinner on Sunday? The CDC recommends staying away from others, including non-caregiving family members. Social distancing prevents grandchildren and adult children who have been out in public places from unknowingly exposing their older relatives to COVID-19.
It’s another story, however, if you have an in-home caregiver who happens to be a family member. In this case, your caregiver can encourage visits from relatives via phone calls, online video chats, or the traditional way—through cards and letters in the mail.
For more tips and information, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Older Adults webpage.