“Much of the infection control plans put into place are to decrease the rate of spread of the [Coronavirus] illness to protect those at highest risk which are adults >65yo with other diseases.”
So opened the letter I received yesterday from our son’s cystic fibrosis center. The note then provided some recommended safeguards for parents beyond the many guidelines and protocols already recommended for those suffering with cystic fibrosis.
While families with medically fragile loved ones are well-versed in infection-control protocols, the coronavirus pandemic—with its high-risk population consisting of everyone over 65—is forcing a huge chunk of society to take additional safeguards. Now the Centers for Disease Control “has recommended that at-risk populations stay in their homes to avoid exposure, and that communities put in place social distancing practices to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.”
This “new normal” will feel anything but, so here are some tips to help keep your loved ones safe.
1. Run Errands for the Older Set
The best way for the at-risk population to avoid contracting the coronavirus is to avoid the public. But grandma and grandpa still need food and likely several medicines. They may also be accustomed to eating meals out at a favorite restaurant.
Running errands for them will help keep them healthy. Coordinate with family and friends to arrange shopping and errand schedules. Take turns making meals or ordering take-out from their favorite restaurants.
Also, don’t ask if they want you to pick something up for them, as many will say no so as not to burden you. Instead, tell them you plan to shop for them until the coronavirus risk is over “because the Centers for Disease Control recommends they stay at home.” Then ask them to help you with a list.
Picking up prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines is also invaluable because not only are these must-have items, the pharmacy will be a hot spot for those infected or exposed to someone who has been infected. Have them call ahead to ensure that a third-party is able to pick up the prescription and to arrange for any documentation or permissions necessary.
Find out what other errands they need done. Maybe they typically travel to the library, bank, or post office, or have a hair appointment or an appointment with a tax preparer. Suggest they cancel the in-person appointments and help with any other tasks you can.
For those without a risk-family member nearby, consider your neighbor in need. Coordinate with your church or synagogue. Consider posting an offer on NextDoor, or putting a note in the elevator or mail room of your apartment building with your contact information.
2. Send Them Supplies
The over-65 group also may not be familiar with Amazon, Walmart, and other delivery services. For those with faraway friends and family—or even across town—arrange for a home delivery of some staples, maybe adding a few staying-home entertainment items, such as a puzzle or supplies for a hobby.
Maybe even set up an Amazon account for them, type out instructions, and show them how to shop for things they may need. (This is not to imply that all of the elderly are Luddites, but as dear son would say to me, technology is wasted on grown-ups!)
Also consider sending an edible order along the lines of a holiday package—fruit, cheeses, or other tasty treats. Not only will this avoid the need to shop, but it will be a nice surprise during this stressful time.
3. Run Interference at the Doctor’s Office or Lab
If the at-risk person in your life needs a blood draw or has a doctor’s appointment while the coronavirus remains a threat, run interference for them. Drive them to the appointment and then let them stay in the car while you sign them in and wait for the staff to call them, at which point you can gather them from the car. If nearby parking is an issue, weather and their physical condition permitting, they could relax outside, and avoid the waiting room.
It’s also always wise to bring your own pen and hand sanitizer to avoid exposure to more germs and to ensure you can promptly clean your hands after opening doors. And if you attend the appointment with your loved one, be a second set of eyes for any concerns, such as staff forgetting their own infection-protection protocols, or someone approaching with a cough. Scoot Aunt Mary to the side to keep her at least six feet away from the presumptively infectious person.
4. Help with the Loneliness
Social distancing will help ease the spread of the coronavirus, but, especially for the extroverts among those 65 and older, the isolation will be excruciating. Devise some safe alternatives for them to socialize. Help them, or set up for them, a Skype or Facetime account and program in family and friends’ contact information. Show them how to use social media and how to find their friends, family, and relations. Then arrange times to chat!
Also, as noted above, if they have a hobby, consider sending a surprise package with supplies. Or consider purchasing a photo album or journal and ask them to write out a living history for you. Give them a subscription to Ancestry and help them start a family tree and genealogy project. Recommend some favorite movies or send them a book and help arrange a virtual book club for their friends.
5. Keep Yourself Healthy
Finally, you can’t keep your loved ones healthy if you aren’t healthy. So, while you are running errands and allowing them to stay isolated, make sure you follow the recommended protocols of handwashing, avoiding domestic and international travel, avoiding sick people, and avoiding touching your face. Also recommended is disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
While these points seem basic, many people quickly forget what they’re touching while they are eating or right before they eat. If you are texting and eating or surfing and eating, your just-washed hands won’t keep you healthy. Likewise, if you touch the bags and bottles from the grocery store while making your lunch, then eat without washing your hands, you just exposed yourself to a plethora of germs.
Washing your hands immediately upon returning home is another best practice, as is changing your clothing if you’ve been sitting in public areas. Of course, all this handwashing comes at a cost, so pick yourself and your loved ones some lotions. My go-to favorites:
- Basic lotion: CeraVe
- Desperate Condition: O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream or Bag Balm
- Tear-Inducing: Gold Bond Medicated Lotion Extra Strength