Even as we flatten the curve, adults aged 65 and older will continue to be at increased risk for serious complications if they contract the coronavirus. The American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation has advice for helping older adults navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of the basics apply to every age group:
- We should all be washing our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can also use an alcohol- based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available.
- Regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, remote controls, and cell phones/tablets. Carefully follow the instructions on the label.
- Stay active, and maintain a healthy diet. Good nutrition is essential for a strong immune system.
The safest thing to do is to stay home, but even that involves a certain amount of preparation and planning—especially for older adults. Mallory Otto, MD, from Saratoga Hospital Medical Group—Geriatric Care, emphasizes the importance of stress reduction. “Limit media time to a fixed amount each day, and set an intention every morning,” she says. “It’s the best way to avoid burning out.”
Along with stress reduction comes staying connected with loved ones. Encourage your friends and family to maintain contact with the older adult in your care to mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype may be preferable to us, but don’t underestimate the power of simpler forms of communication like writing a letter, or making an old fashioned phone call.
Another important aspect of caring for older adults is prescription continuity. Advise the person in your care to speak with his/her provider about the best way to get refills. If he/she is unable to manage prescriptions, you can reach out and make those arrangements for them. Many healthcare providers are offering telehealth visits via phone or video conference should the need arise.
If you haven’t already, use this time to speak with your loved one about who they would want making healthcare decisions on their behalf in the event they’re too sick to make decisions themselves. The Conversation Project has a tool kit to help you navigate conversations about healthcare proxies, advanced directives, and other treatment preferences in the event of serious illness.
Dr. Otto and the team at Saratoga Hospital Medical Group—Geriatric Care are equipped to address the unique healthcare concerns of older patients, and assist you and the older adult in your care with making these important decisions. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of geriatric care, please call the office directly at 518-886-5060.