Kim Barnett, MSW | March 16, 2020
Older people are known to be more at risk of
serious illness due to coronavirus, especially those with pre-existing
conditions and those who are immune compromised. The majority of older adults
do not live in residential facilities and instead are cared for by family
members, therefore the coronavirus outbreak is especially worrisome for those
who are living with elderly loved ones in a multigenerational home.
Family caregivers should take the following
precautions to protect seniors from COVID-19:
- Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for social distancing.
Don’t panic, but prepare your home to allow for the possibility that you will
need to limit your time in public spaces. Be mindful of the CDC’s advice that,
“The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.”
- Keep as much distance as
possible between people in the home. For example, limit the elder to a single
location in the house and don’t share personal items. The virus spreads easily
among people in the same household, and older adults within the house are at
higher risk levels than healthy adults and children. Make every effort to
minimize the impact of multigenerational living.
- Limit contact with the
elder to one person. Designate a primary caregiver to provide all contact with
the elder in the home. The primary caregiver should also limit their daily
interactions with people outside the home to reduce their risk of exposure.
- Wash hands with water
and soap for at least 20 seconds. The CDC recommends we become very serious
about personal hygiene, even within our own homes. Regular soap and water is
the most effective protection against spreading the virus. If you are using a
hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all
surfaces of the hands with sanitizer and rub until dry.
- Clean all household
surfaces daily with EPA-registered household disinfectants. Prioritize even
more rigorous cleaning of high-use areas.
- Postpone non-essential
doctor and dentist visits.
- Spend some time outside.
The fear and anxiety accompanying this outbreak may feel overwhelming on top of
the everyday stressors of caring for an aging parent. Limit your exposure to
news reports and social media. Take a walk, step outside to breathe some fresh
air, or lead your parent to the porch while you plant some spring flowers or
stretch your legs in the back yard. Stay connected to family, friends and
neighbors by teaching an elder how to Skype or Facetime. Your reaction to the
situation influences the reaction of those in your household. Caregivers who
are confident and calm in their preparations will be better prepared for the
challenges that lie ahead.
If your elderly loved one resides in a senior
living community, it is important to respect the rules the facility has put in
place to protect its residents. Long-term care facilities are dedicated to
making the best care decisions possible during these unprecedented
circumstances. Restricting visitors shields residents, while also protecting
the general public from any viral danger.
Removing a senior from a senior living facility
is not a guarantee for preventing the spread of infection and brings a whole
new set of complications. Moving a senior, especially one with cognitive
impairment can be very unsettling and, in some cases, may lead to further
cognitive and behavioral decline. An in-home care plan must be in place to
provide the level of care necessary to maintain the safety and health of an
elderly loved one. If you are unable to provide the proper level of care at
home, seniors are safer staying in their long-term care facilities. Stay
involved in the care of your loved one by maintaining communication with the
facility to respectfully express your concerns and inquire about measures the
facility is taking to protect its residents while following your elder’s care
For more information visit www.agingcare.com