As the Coronavirus starts to settle, restrictions start to loosen across the U.S. However, it is important to not let protective guards down too soon.
Virus exposure is still at risk, especially for older people and other high-risk populations. To protect vulnerable populations, states are issuing seniors to still stay-in-place.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep seniors in place with their utmost health and safety in mind.
How to Keep Seniors at Home
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. What’s more, 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older!
To help control these overwhelming statistics, take proactive measures for seniors living at home and under senior care facilities. These include practicing good hygiene and social distancing as much as possible.
1. Follow Assisted Living and Long-Term Care Protocols
Outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities can feel unsettling if your loved one is living in one. You might even question if your loved one should be relocated.
Before reacting, though, it is vital to fully understand the risks that come with moving. These include whether or not personnel and home accommodations are equipped to handle the care your loved one needs.
As a peace of mind, the CDC has advised long-term care facilities to implement a number of precautions. These include:
- Visitor restrictions.
- Regular check-ins with healthcare workers and residents for fevers and symptoms.
- Activity limitations within the facility.
All-in-all, do what is best for your unique situation and react accordingly. Also follow guidance from the CDC and other reputable sources.
2. Designate One Caregiver
Exposure risk can increase if too many hands are on deck. That being said, try to designate one sole caregiver to handle care.
To mitigate any financial and emotional impacts, seek out assistant senior services. These may include directed long-term services and supports (LTSS) and respite care.
Directed Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS)
Self-directed LTSS is an alternative to traditional agency-based services for people with care needs living at home. Self-direction grants greater choice over received support, including hiring paid caregivers that may include a family member.
In relation to the pandemic, according to AARP, “Hiring a family member or other household member to provide services during the COVID-19 pandemic reduces the number of people coming into a house and that the individual must be in contact with during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Self-direction may have a financial benefit, too. “Tapping family members as a resource even has an economic dimension: They may be both more available nowadays and more in need of income than ever.”
Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers. Care can be provided for seniors living independently at home for hours, days, and weeks at a time.
Using the home care service helps combat stress and emotional exhaustion caregivers can face. The relief allows family caregivers to take much-needed breaks, all ensuring their loved ones receive quality care.
If needing additional help for seniors living at home, consider contacting your local area agencies on aging. They can help navigate you to valuable resources for seniors such as other home care services.
3. Take Care of Yourself
As the designated caregiver, it is vital to take care of yourself in order to provide the best care for your loved one.
Effective and essential ways to take care of yourself including practicing good hygiene and sanitation, along with limiting crowd exposure.
Practice Good Hygiene
Practicing good hygiene and sanitation is one of the best ways to protect from the Coronavirus. Good practices to implement at your home and loved one’s include:
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Washing hands frequently, including before and after providing care, prepping food, and using the restroom.
- Keeping a clean home, especially on frequently touched surfaces such as handrails, light switches, counters, and faucets.
- Sanitize all used equipment such as walkers and medication bottles.
Limit Personal Crowd Exposure
If providing elder care, it is important to avoid or limit exposure to crowds. This lowers virus exposure risk for both you and your loved one.
If and when venturing out, take the necessary precautions to safeguard from exposure:
- Wear personal protective equipment such as a mask.
- Maintain a 6-foot distance between you and others.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Remove shoes and put on fresh clothes when re-entering the home.
4. Limit Senior Outdoor Exposure
Seniors should limit contact to the external environment as much as possible. The less they come in contact with others, the lower the opportunity to become in contact with the virus.
Senior caregivers are needed now more than ever to assist in retrieving essential items. However, they can likewise take advantage of delivery services to alleviate stress and exposure risk.
Attend Only Essential Medical Appointments
Older adults may have regular medical appointments to treat and maintain chronic health conditions. However, regular visits can increase virus exposure.
Consult with your loved one’s doctor regarding a plan of action to ensure their safety without compromising their health. This may include scaling back on visits and using virtual appointments if possible.
For any prescription needs, see what delivery options are available in your area.
Deliver Groceries & Meals
Good nutrition is critical to keep the body nourished and strong during stressful times. Help ensure your loved one is receiving a balanced diet by taking care of the groceries.
Try to gather and stock a mix of fresh, frozen, canned, and pouched foods. Having such variety can limit the need for frequent grocery hauls, in turn limiting exposure risk.
Nutrient-dense food staples to consider obtaining include:
- Whole grains such as steamable rice and oats.
- Fruits and veggies in varying colors.
- Animal protein sources, including eggs, chicken, turkey, and tuna.
- Beans, lentils, and other legumes.
- Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Likewise take advantage of grocery and meal delivery services such as Silver Cuisine, an a la carte meal delivery service that provides doctor-designed meals delivered straight to doorsteps.
All the heavy lifting of meal prep is completed and all that is left to do is heat a nutritious and delicious meal whenever ready to enjoy!
Encourage Walks Outside
Isolating and confining seniors to their four walls can compromise mental and emotional health quickly. While running errands and gathering with others is not advised, encouraging socially-distanced outdoor walks is recommended.
Being outdoors alone can help boost mood and energy levels. Walking does the same, along with nurturing physical health.
5. Creatively Connect with & Involve Loved Ones
Again, isolation is a great concern for seniors cutoff to the external world. Since social connections keep seniors healthy, it is important to maintain them as much as possible.
There are many safe, creative ways to help combat senior isolation and associated risks. These include using technology and offering projects for them to work on.
While social activities may look different, technology allows seniors to connect with loved ones while ensuring their utmost safety.
Ways to connect include FaceTime or with a computer webcam. Check-in regularly while interacting creatively such as with a virtual book club or shared meal.
Offer a Project to Work On
Keeping seniors busy and fulfilled can boost health on many levels. Make the most out of their time by offering fun and creative projects to work on, including:
- Organizing old photos.
- Preparing a family recipe.
- Sharing favorite books, songs, etc. with the others.
- Telling special stories and memories over coffee.
If concerned about your loved one’s mental and physical health, consider reaching out to a social worker, psychologist, or other health care workers.