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How To Protect Your Elderly Parents From Coronavirus

It’s Friday, March 13, 2020 and it seems that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) is not going away anytime soon so I wanted to write down some tips for you on how to best protect yourself and your elderly parents or senior loved ones until this dissipates. Which we hope is very soon.

I do want to say that if you live here in the USA, at this time, you may be able to find more accurate information about Covid-19 and what to do and where to go from your local governments (city and state) as well as from your local news organizations than you would be able to get from our federal government (sad to say). At least, as of today that seems to be the case.

I would also strongly recommend to look at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website as well as the WHO (world health organization) website.

But, be very careful about the information that you read on the internet concerning Covid-19.  Unfortunately, these types of events tend to bring out scammers, snake oil salesmen and conspiracy theorists who tend to feed off of our fears by promoting false claims.

Okay, so enough about all of that, let’s get to the information about what you can do to protect yourself, your elderly parents and other senior loved ones.

So – how can you protect yourself and your elderly parents from Covid-19? – Everyone, so far agrees that the #1 thing you can do to help prevent being exposed and possibly contracting and passing on Covid-19 is to severely reduce the amount of interaction you have with others.

The reason that this information is so important for elderly adults is because elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system is oftentimes more susceptible to not only contracting a disease but also have a more difficult time recovering from it.

There is no evidence yet that older people are significantly more likely to acquire the coronavirus than younger people. But medical experts say that if people over 60 are infected, they are more likely to have severe, life-threatening disease, even if their general health is good. Older people with underlying medical conditions are at particularly high risk. Experts attribute some of the risk to a weakening of the immune system with age. – The New York Times

Self isolating is, as of right now, the best prevention. But how long do you stay in quarantine for?

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough. The symptoms, as we know of now are Fever, Cough and Shortness of Breath
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

CDC Website

I do however want you to be aware that not everyone experiences ALL of these symptoms. 

Here’s a CNN news interview with Elizabeth Schneider from Seattle, Washington.  Her only symptom was a fever – but she tested positive for Covid-19.

How Do They Suspect Covid-19 Is Being Spread?

Again, from the CDC website…

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. – CDC.gov

The CDC continues by saying that…”It may be possible that a person can get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

An article published March 17, 2020 from Reuters.com reports that “Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, attempted to mimic the virus deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects.”

These studies showed the following:

  • “…when the virus is carried by the droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, it remains viable, or able to still infect people, in aerosols for at least three hours.”
  • “On plastic and stainless steel, viable virus could be detected after three days.”
  • “On cardboard, the virus was not viable after 24 hours.”
  • “On copper, it took 4 hours for the virus to become inactivated.”
  • Update on March 25, 2020 – the Covid-19 virus has been found to remain on steel and plastic for up to 9 hours – 
    theconversation.com

Note: It’s important to know that although the Covid-19 virus can be detected – it does not necessarily mean that the virus is infectious.  At this point, we just don’t know.

The best precautions then I would recommend are…

  • Clean any surface not in your home with a sanitizer such as Clorox Wipes (i.e. restaurant, getting gas, etc.)  The reason I’m not recommending Lysol is because that product is toxic to cats and dogs.
  • A good idea is to have disposable gloves to use only for pumping your gas and then disposing them immediately afterwards.  If you don’t have disposable gloves you can use the paper towels that are available there at the gas station.  Still, you should wipe your hands with a sanitizer before entering your car again.
  • When you return home from a trip to the grocery store, etc. remove your clothes immediately, place them directly into the washing machine and take a shower.
  • If you are nervous about having anyone over, perhaps you can ask them to bring an overcoat or some other item that they can wear over their clothing while they are in your home.  An item of clothing that has not been exposed to others.  Of course, if they are coming to your home directly from their home perhaps that won’t be needed?  It’s a judgement call.
  • Remove your shoes outside the front door.  You can try to have a dedicated pair of indoor shoes just for indoors.
  • Immediately wash your hands after handling ANYTHING that you got from outside.  That includes boxes and mail items.
  • Make it a daily habit, for now, to wipe down the most common used objects / areas in your home (i.e. doorknobs, refrigerator handles, cell phone, remote control, etc.)

In case you are having trouble finding cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. – here’s a website that may be able to help.  It’s called InStock.  It checks the inventory at stores that are near you for the item(s) you are looking for.  Check it out!

Who Is Most At Risk?

Yes, you probably guessed correctly that the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system is most at risk with Covid-19.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said…

“Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age. The highest risk of serious illness and death is in people older than 80 years.” – USA Today

So, I would recommend that if your senior loved ones are between the ages of 60 and 80 that they should limit the amount of interaction they have with others.  And of course to follow as many precautions as possible. 

If your senior loved ones are over 80 years of age then they are in the highest risk category and should be even more vigilant of their surroundings and limit their travels out of the home as much as possible.

But, having said that – there is quite a higher percentage of younger adults who have been hospitalized with Covid 19 than you would think.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of U.S. cases from Feb. 12 to March 16 released Wednesday shows 38 percent of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55. – Washingtonpost.com

What To Do If You Know Or Suspect You’ve Come In Close Contact With Someone Who Has Been Diagnosed With Covid-19 or If You Are Caring For Someone Who May Have Been Exposed

The first step is to contact your physician and ask for medical advice.  If you are having trouble getting to your physician in a timely manner because they are booked for weeks on end or if you can’t physically get TO a doctor’s office I would recommend using any of the telehealth services available online.

For information on how online doctor visits work – click here.

But please note that they may not be able to give you a Covid-19 test IF you don’t have a fever, fluid in your lungs, etc. The reason for this is that there are currently a very limited limited number of tests available here in the USA.

In addition to the limited number of tests there are also a limited number of labs that can process these tests.

As of March 10, 2020 there were only “…78 labs in the USA that have the capacity to test people for Covid-19…” – livescience.com

For all the latest information about Covid-19 I would recommend that you go to this CDC website page about the Coronovirus and keep it on your list of favorites to visit often.   As it updates, you’ll have the latest information.

But of course, as I said earlier, also keep up with your local news for updates and information in your area.

Update: You can now ask Alexa the following queries:

  • Alexa, what do I do if I think I have coronavirus?
  • Alexa, what do I do if I think I have COVID-19?

She will then begin asking you a series of questions about your symptoms, your travel history and more. 

My 15 Tips On How To Best Protect Yourself And Your Senior Loved One

1) Stay home except to get medical care

Anyone who believes they’ve been exposed but aren’t showing any symptoms should simply isolate themselves from others (and their pets).  Yes, your pets MAY (nothing is sure as of yet) be able to get infected with Covid-19.  Here’s an article on Quartz that explains it.

If you need groceries – you can try some of the online services from your local grocery store or use a service like Blue Apron.  You can use the link below to get $40 off your first month!

If you are in need of going to the pharmacy for medications on a regular basis you can try Amazon’s PillPack service.   PillPack is an Amazon service that takes away the need for having to go to the pharmacy to pick up or refill a prescription.  You can’t beat the price – the service and shipping are both free. You only pay the regular insurance copay, just like you if you went to the pharmacy. 

2) Avoid touching your face

It’s the same advice that we all get when we catch a cold or have the flu.  You can easily catch a virus or transmit it to others if you come in contact with any bodily fluid.  So, if you happen to get some infected droplets onto your hand or wrist or arm and that skin comes in contact with your mouth, nose or eyes – the chances of you contracting that illness increases.

3) Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home

If you are staying in your home but others will also be living there then, if possible, use a separate bathroom just for yourself and keep yourself in one room. Have others take care of your pet(s).

If you are alone and no one else can help you to care for your pets then I would recommend to avoid as much physical and close contact with your pet as possible.  Washing your hands multiple times a day, before and after you feed them, etc.

4) Stay 3 to 6 feet away from others

If you are in the high risk (60 to 80 years old) or the highest risk (80+ years old) and you HAVE to go out – the recommendation is to stay 3 to 6 feet away from another person. 

5) Call ahead before visiting your doctor

If you have an existing doctors appointment, do not assume it will be kept. Call to make sure they are accepting patients.

6) Wear a facemask

Ideally, if you have to expose yourself to others you should be wearing a facemask. Of course, some elderly will not be able to wear a facemask simply because it makes it too hard for them to breath – so – then the issue of these people being isolated is even moreso.

And of course, if your senior loved one cannot wear a facemask I would say then that anyone that comes in contact with that person must wear one.

7) Cover your coughs and sneezes

It’s best to cover your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue versus your hand. I know this is difficult because most oftentimes you are not walking around with a tissue in your hand.

So, if you do cough or sneeze into your hand or your arm then immediately wash your hands and your arm with soap and water or a hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends that soap and water is better than a hand sanitizer but if you’re in a pinch, the hand sanitizer is better than nothing.

And since hand sanitizers are in short supply these days, the next best thing to use is Rubbing Alcohol that is at least 60% alcohol.

8) Clean your hands often

Use soap and water to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds.  So, count, repeat a poem, sing a song, etc.  Do whatever you need to do to make sure that you are washing your hands for AT LEAST 20 seconds!

Wash your hands after you touch any surface or object.  I personally have always washed my hands after I’ve petted my cat, after I get the mail, open a package, handled my broom or can of Lysol, etc.  It’s a habit I picked up from working as an Occupational Therapist in hospitals and nursing homes.

As of today there is a shortage (even on Amazon) of hand sanitizers so I the next best thing to use, if you have it, is rubbing alcohol but only the kind that is at least 60% alcohol.

Note: as of today there is also a shortage of alcohol in Amazon and I couldn’t find any in my grocery store yesterday so hopefully, you have some at home.

9) Avoid sharing personal household items

This means avoid sharing utensils, glassware, towels, napkins, bed sheets, sofa pillows, bed pillows, clothing, etc.

10) Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day

This includes counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, arms of a chair or sofa, magazines, books, sofa pillows, etc.

Basically, anything that you touch should be cleaned every day.

You can use a solution of 1/2 cup cup of bleach per gallon of water to clean some surfaces.  You can also use disinfectant sprays and wipes.

If you are not sure how to clean your tech devices like keyboard, cell phone, etc.  Then check out this article for information about that.

11) Monitor your symptoms

The means to keep a check on yourself and your senior loved ones for the symptoms currently associated with COVID-19.

These symptoms are…

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

But I repeat again that not everyone shows all of these symptoms.  If you or your elderly loved one shows any one of these symptoms that is out of the ordinary then please contact your physician for information on what to do.

12) Wear gloves 

If you are having to be exposed to anyone’s bodily fluids then you must wear gloves. 

This includes fluids such as…

  • blood
  • stool
  • saliva
  • nasal mucous
  • vomit
  • urine

Of course, if you are regularly toileting someone or changing their diapers then you would certainly be wearing gloves.  But oftentimes if you are just helping them with a runny nose or wiping their mouth during feeding, many caregivers don’t normally think about wearing gloves – but I would caution you to do so now.

13) DO NOT REUSE

DO NOT reuse disposable facemasks, gloves, gowns, etc.

I know that there’s a shortage at the moment for these items so all I can recommend is that if you don’t have any disposable products to use, then at least use clothing / cloth to protect yourself. 

Some ideas are…

  • You can wear an apron or large shirt over your clothing when toileting someone or feeding someone.
  • You can wear those yellow rubber cleaning gloves if you don’t have the disposable kind.
  • You can wear cloth facemasks.
  • If you have long hair, I would recommend to put it up so that it has minimal to no contact with someone.

Honestly, I am not sure if using a cloth facemask that you made yourself is as effective as a disposable one but I would suspect that it’s better than nothing at all.

The one thing I would strongly recommend is to not reuse these items made of cloth either.  More about that on my last tip #14 below.

14) Wash clothing after each use immediately

Wash any clothing that you wore that day, especially if it was exposed to any bodily fluid as soon that day.  Yes, this may mean using the washing machine every evening and I know that is not environmentally conscious but it’s a safety issue so it’s important.  If you want to stretch it to every 3rd or 4th day – that should be fine as long as you have enough items to use every day.

If your elderly person is bed bound I would recommend to change their bed sheets and their clothing every day.

State By State

The research team at NBC news gathered information from every state health department on how they are handling the testing process, who qualifies, etc.

You can find that information in their article published March 14, 2020 – click here.

Conclusion

So those are my 14 tips that I hope will work to help to keep you healthy and safe from the Coronavirus during these very crazy times.

I do suspect that at this time, in the USA if many more tests do become available that the number of cases will rise – simply because more people will be getting tested.  So, things may get or seem to get a little worse before they get better but only time will tell.

Stay safe.

 

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