As of April 21, 2020, there were nearly 747,000 cases of COVID-19.1 Social distancing, hand washing, and good hygiene are a good start, but it’s important to do what we can for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Seniors are among the most at risk for showing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus.2
As the world tries to slow the spread of this disease, your older friends, neighbors, and relatives are at risk for isolation and illness. Here are a few ways to help from a safe distance.
During a time of social distancing, seniors and folks aging in the home may feel more isolated and lonely without their regular visitors and activities. With church services and community events put on hold, they’re likely not socializing much.
That’s why now, more than ever, it’s important to stay in touch with our senior friends and family.
Whether it’s through phone calls, text, video chats, or social media, keep in touch with seniors in your community. Call your grandparents, parents, and neighbors regularly to chat and keep them company.
Old School Communication
Send letters, notes, drawings, and gifts to the seniors in your life to brighten up their day. Keepsakes like handwritten letters and old pictures will boost their spirits. And don’t hesitate to enlist your kids and friends to join you. Just make sure to wash your hands before writing your letters and sending them off.
Share Happy Memories
With the world on hold, it can be easy to dwell on the negative. While talking to your senior family member, neighbor, or friend, ask them to tell stories about their career or family. Share recipes and jokes to keep the mood lighthearted. We may be stuck at home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy each other’s company.
For Loved Ones in Nursing Homes
Older adults in nursing homes are also at risk of isolation and illness. If you know someone in an assisted living home, visit them when you can.
If it’s safe to visit, help clean up their space and bring supplies, gifts, or flowers to brighten up their area. Ask facility staff about their precautions and procedures to avoid the spread of the outbreak.
Wash your hands before arriving and leaving the facility, and avoid going if you’re sick.
2. Drop off Supplies
For people aging at home, it can be hard to get the supplies they need to stay healthy and engaged. Leaving your senior friends and family care packages is a great way to brighten their day and get them the items they need. Just be sure to keep a safe distance to avoid getting sick or infecting them.
Food and Medicine
For most, grocery and delivery services work well, but rural areas may not have the same options. Shopping for supplies and delivering food can be a huge help to those who need it.
Anything from bringing takeout meals to medicine can be helpful for seniors stuck at home. Be sure any food you bring is healthy and wash your hands before handling anything.
If you want to volunteer, organizations like Meals On Wheels are taking helpers. Your local food bank will also be taking donations during the pandemic.
Puzzles, Games and Entertainment
Phones, tablets, and laptops can only go so far. Drop off puzzles, coloring books, magazines, or craft supplies to seniors in your area. Anything that helps time go by faster and makes the isolation a little easier could do a lot for their mental and physical health.
Seniors with pets may not be able to leave to pick up supplies. Help out older adults and their furry friends by including goods like pet food, kitty litter, and pet toys in any care packages you bring.
3. Encourage Healthy Activities
Without errands to run or events to attend, social distancing makes staying active harder than normal for everyone. Thankfully, there are ways seniors can stay healthy and active during a pandemic.
Online Workout Videos
Walking in the park, going to the gym, and other physical activities may be restricted, but older adults can still find ways to get the blood pumping. Youtube offers plenty of free workouts for seniors, many of which can be done sitting in a chair. So drop a link in their inbox.
Just be careful of strenuous exercise if you or your senior friends have respiratory problems or showing COVID-19 symptoms. It’s best to consult a doctor before starting any kind of exercise regimen.
Virtual Doctors Visits
Virtual doctor visits are a great option for seniors stuck at home. There’s no need to leave the house for regular checkups and consultations (now covered by Medicare). For conditions like diabetes, this allows seniors to see their doctors without risking coming in contact with coronavirus. Plus, no stuffy waiting room!
Senior safety devices like medication dispensers, medical alert systems, and safety equipment are also helpful for any older adult living alone or away from family.
For parents or grandparents who live out of state, a medical alert system can be a huge help. These alerts are available as wearable buttons or home stations like a landline.
For a monthly fee, these devices connect to emergency assistance at the push of a button. So whether there’s been a fall or they start showing symptoms of COVID-19, older adults can get help as soon as possible.
While COVID-19 is a serious concern for seniors and their families, threats like falls should still be on your radar. If you or your loved one live alone or away from family, consider a medical alert with fall detection. These systems act like normal medical alert systems, but automatically detect falls that can cause serious injuries and even death in older adults.
4. Establish Backup Contacts
Demands at home like children, pets, and work, may keep us from visiting our senior friends and family as much as we’d like. Make it easier on yourself and your family by enlisting others to help out with seniors in your community. Get contact information for other family, friends, or neighbors who can help visit seniors and bring them supplies.
How Coronavirus Affects Seniors FAQ
How dangerous is coronavirus for seniors?
Older adults, especially those with respiratory issues and diabetes are more vulnerable to the coronavirus than other groups. Symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, and coughing are likely to show up faster for those with existing health issues. Because mortality rates are so much higher for adults over 80, the best way to help out is by self isolating and checking on them from a distance.
How can I help older friends and relatives who live far away?
Stay in contact with them, know who’s visiting them or if they’re alone, and stay in touch. Technology like medical alert systems or indoor cameras keep an eye on your loved ones and get them help when they need it.
Is there anywhere I can volunteer or donate?
Services will vary based on where you (and your senior friends) live. We’ve found opportunities through Meals on Wheels to deliver food to seniors. Check with your local food bank or pantry for chances volunteer or donate to relief organizations that help people affected by the pandemic.
How do I care for someone who is sick?
If you or someone you care for fall ill with COVID-19, you’ll need to take some precautions. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that you and the person you’re caring for should wear a protective mask to avoid spreading the virus through coughing and sneezing. Wash your hands frequently before and after caring for them and avoid touching your face or hard surfaces.
Currently healthcare providers are stretched, so be sure to call ahead before taking anyone to the hospital. That said, it is important that you consult a medical professional about proper care and procedures if you or a loved one are sick.
What should I do if I get sick?
Most importantly, stay home and get in touch with your doctor. It’s important to keep a safe distance from other people in your home. Wear a facemask to avoid spreading germs, avoid touching your face, and practice good hygiene like washing your hands.
Katie McEntire has tested home security systems in her own apartment, installed GPS trackers in her own car, and watched her cat, Toki, nap all day through a live nanny cam feed. As an expert reviewer, she believes that firsthand experience is the best way to learn about new products (even if it requires being the guinea pig). She specializes in pet safety and DIY security and has contributed to publications like DigitalCare.org and TechGuySmartBuy. Learn more