6 Essential Elderly Care Tips to Follow During the Coronavirus Scare

The elderly are the most vulnerable to coronavirus. Here's a doctor's advice on how to help them.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpasses 250, there's an increasing amount of concern over the age group that the illness could hit the hardest: the elderly. Vice President Mike Pence said at a press conference earlier this week that it appears "the elderly are the most vulnerable and especially those with serious health issues." As a result, Medicaid and Medicare issued new guidelines for nursing homes nationwide to "help keep the elderly safe."

But if you're the primary caretaker for an elderly friend or family member in your life, you might be wondering how specifically you can best ensure their health and safety as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase. At the same press conference, Deborah Burke, MD, advised using "the common sense approach" when caring for the elderly, like washing your hands frequently. But if you want to know more about how you can help those most vulnerable to coronavirus, here are some suggestions for supporting the seniors in your life, as Sharagim Kemp, DO, wrote in an article for Give InKind.

Make sure seniors have enough fresh water.

senior Asian Woman with a glass of refreshing water

Drinking plenty of water is critical to maintaining a strong immune system, so Kemp recommended giving seniors a measured liter bottle so that you can track their intake to make sure they're drinking enough H20.

Keep seniors' meals as nutritious as possible.

eating healthy food all the time doesn't work for weight loss

"Many prepared foods are high in sodium, which can impact kidney and heart function," according to Kemp. Research has shown that the best food for seniors is rich with magnesium, protein, and healthy fats.

If you're not confident in your ability to drum up the healthiest dinner, Kemp suggests using a specialized service like Magic Kitchen, which can deliver food customized to anyone's dietary restrictions and needs.

Stock up on medication.

woman looking through her medications in her medicine cabinet, things you should never store in your attic

It's a good idea to get an advanced supply of medication to avoid running out at the most inconvenient time. "Even medications that tend to be re-filled monthly can receive three-month supplies with doctor approval," according to Kemp.

It's also beneficial to load up on some of the basics like acetaminophen, stool softeners, antacids, and hearing aid batteries. "These are some of the primary discomforts of our older citizens, which is not always understood and many sufferers do not feel comfortable asking for help," she noted.

Clean the house as often as possible.

cleaning supplies and tools on the floor

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households." Which means now's the best time to get a head start on some especially aggressive spring cleaning.

Kemp recommends "easy-to-use cleaning products so that surfaces in the home can be kept as clean as possible" without driving yourself nuts.

Talk to seniors about any new symptoms or health concerns.

Senior man sitting in a wheelchair, laughing and holding his nurse's hand

Oftentimes, senior family members don't want to reveal any new health issues—such as trouble walking or eating—so as not to be perceived as a burden. But it's important to ask them regularly about how they're feeling so that you can prepare accordingly.

"Touch base on other medical supplies as some health concerns lead to symptoms that need managing," Kemp wrote. "For example, diabetes often means lots of wound care with gauze and bandages."

Don't hesitate to seek help if you notice coronavirus symptoms.

nurse writing on notepad while senior sits on couch

If one of your elderly friends or family members does start to show symptoms of coronavirus—such as coughing, fever, or shortness of breath—it's important to seek medical help right away.

"Older people with pre-existing conditions decompensate relatively quickly," Eudene Harry, MD, Medical Director at the Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center previously told Best Life. "With younger, healthier people, there's usually a slope in the decline, which means there's more time for intervention." But with the elderly, time is of the essence.

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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