While the coronavirus outbreak is a risk for all ages, experts have made it clear that older Americans are particularly vulnerable to this dangerous virus.
In Washington State – where the outbreak started – a nursing home was the center of the first confirmed U.S. fatalities of Covid-19, resulting in an initial loss of 19 residents.
Here are some ways older Americans can protect themselves against Covid-19
In addition to the standard precautions of regular hand washing, avoiding crowds, and the practice of social distancing, it is vital for seniors to minimize or eliminate visits from friends and family members, especially if anyone in your family is sick or has flu-like symptoms. Experts still do not understand all the details of how the virus is transmitted but believe that people with mild or asymptomatic are highly contagious.
Planning will help reduce panic and anxiety. There should be enough food and supplies (medication and other household products) to last at least 2-3 weeks, maybe more. In many cases, you can mail-order prescriptions and use grocery store delivery services to be sure you keep getting your medicines promptly while minimizing trips out of the home.
How can seniors stay connected with family members?
Now more than ever, social connections are essential for your mental health and well-being. While it will be necessary to minimize your contact with others, this could mean making phone calls more frequently, FaceTime, or video conferencing. There are many free services available if you don’t have access to video on a mobile phone. One example is Zoom, which offers free unlimited personal meetings, and is very easy to set up on your personal computer. You can visit the Zoom website to sign up. Or ask a family member to sign up, and they can invite you to a video meeting.
How can you stay active and keep entertained?
Depending on your situation, you may be able to go for a walk around your room, down hallways, or around your home or apartment, assuming you can maintain a safe distance from other residents or neighbors. It is crucial to stay active to keep your blood flowing and maintain overall physical and mental health. Small chores or housework is a form of exercise, as well.
During this challenging time, it is a great time to catch up on some movies, read a great book, or catch up on that Netflix series you’ve meant to watch. Now you finally have an excuse for some binge-watching! This period of isolation is also an opportunity to do something you never had the time to do with a busier schedule. How about learning a new language or take a course online.
Also, don’t forget the written word. Send a letter or note to friends, family, or your grandchildren. In times like these, a personal message from the mail can be extra meaningful.
What are some steps to take if you are worried you have been exposed to Covid-19?
The most important thing to know is that if you are not sick but concerned you have been exposed to someone who is, you do not need to go to the hospital to seek help. Depending on where you live, the protocols for testing and treatment may vary. But no matter where you are, the first step is to contact your general physician by phone or telehealth if available. They will instruct you on the next steps to take.
For general information updated daily, visit the CDC website. Here you will find the latest information on how to protect yourself, and steps to take if you think you may have the virus.