Frank De-Levi Explains How to Protect Your Most Vulnerable Loved Ones From COVID-19
As communities re-open amid the Coronavirus pandemic, seniors and their caregivers are hesitant to return to public settings and expand their quarantine bubble. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk for serious illness due to COVID-19 increases with age. Consequently, individuals aged 85 and older are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying from the virus. For instance, recent statistics show that adults over 65 make up eight out of ten reported COVID-19 deaths in the United States. “The immune system weakens with age. Since it’s hard for older adults to fend off infections, they are more likely to experience harsher symptoms,” explains Frank De-Levi of HomeAssist Home Health Services. Because older adults produce fewer immune cells, it takes a lot longer for seniors to recover from injuries and illness. Moreover, the elderly typically have a host of health problems, such as type II diabetes or heart conditions, which only increases their risk of becoming severely ill should they contract COVID-19. Today, Frank De-Levi shares expert advice to help keep you and your vulnerable loved ones safe during the pandemic.
Understand the Spread of COVID-19
By avoiding public places as much as possible and limiting the number of people you come in contact with, you can effectively reduce your risk of falling ill with COVID-19. Expert resources conclude that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus, has two main modes of transmission. Firstly, people can contract the virus through direct contact with a contaminated object or surface, or indirectly, when an individual inhales droplets released by an infected person when speaking, coughing, or sneezing. In some cases, the respiratory droplets are large, allowing them to fall to the ground quickly. In contrast, smaller “aerosols” may linger in the air for lengthier periods. Evidence also suggests that most COVID-19 outbreaks occur indoors, especially in crowded or poorly ventilated environments with minimal airflow.
Stay Home & Stay Safe
The CDC warns that the longer and closer your interactions are with strangers, the greater your chance of infection. “We can only monitor our whereabouts and that of our family members,” says Frank, “we can’t assume that others are taking the same level of preventative measures to stay protected during this time.” Fortunately, most grocery chains, pharmacies, and big-box stores that sell essential goods have made online shopping available with the option of curbside pickup. Curbside pickup and home delivery are perfect for seniors to limit their exposure to high-risk, public settings. Additionally, Frank and his wife Kristina’s home health agency, HomeAssist, offers Health Aide services, including grocery shopping and running errands, giving seniors little reason to leave their homes. For elderly individuals that lack professional support, family members and friends can drop packages off at their doorstep. “There’s no question, our homes are the safest place to be during these uncertain times,” exclaims Frank.
Follow Public Health Guidelines
While many experts recommend that seniors stock up on groceries and medication, at some point, they will need to replenish their essential items. For some older adults, whose family members are unavailable or live far away, this means they must go out in public. In which case, Frank recommends that elderly individuals strictly follow the guidelines developed by the CDC, the world’s top source for accurate and up-to-date Coronavirus information. Most importantly, these experts suggest wearing masks and face shields in public settings in addition to abiding by social-distancing guidelines. Social distancing requires that individuals remain six feet apart at all times, or about two arms’ lengths, regardless of being indoor or outdoor. “Many stores are now offering seniors-only shopping hours, usually one or two hours before the store opens to the general public,” says Frank. To be safer, older adults should take advantage of these exclusive shopping times when they venture out.
At the same time, individuals should avoid contact with high-touch surfaces like elevator buttons and doorknobs. If one must come in contact with a frequently touched surface — like a handrail to keep their balance — the CDC suggests having a tissue handy and sanitizing immediately after. Customers can find hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit of most shopping facilities. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol and be applied all over one’s hands until absorbed into their skin. Of course, sanitizer is not as effective as traditional soap and water. When seniors return home, they should wash their hands properly to eliminate germs and bacteria.
Limit Your Quarantine Bubble
With restrictions lifting in some areas because of Christmas, you might feel tempted to invite friends and family over for the holidays. If you are the primary caregiver for an elderly individual, you might want to reconsider whom you allow into your ‘quarantine bubble.’ The concept of a quarantine bubble dictates that people living in different homes can still spend time together as long as they stick to mingling with only one or two other households. Basically, no one inside the bubble has close contact with outsiders, except when visiting public spaces to complete essential errands.
“These exclusive groups can flatten the curve while reducing feelings of seclusion,” says Frank. Unfortunately, the consequences of the pandemic extend beyond physical illness. For instance, roughly 13.6% of Americans reported feelings of psychological distress in April, compared to 3.9% in 2018. Sources note that prolonged social isolation and loneliness can lead to negative outcomes, including depression and anxiety, a weaker immune system, coronary heart disease, and premature death. Ultimately, seniors and their caregivers should limit their bubble to a few individuals they can trust to mitigate mental and physical health risks associated with COVID-19.
Reduce In-Person Doctor Visits
Over the past several months, people have canceled or postponed important doctor’s appointments fearing they may expose themselves to COVID-19. Instead of abandoning those engagements, individuals should contact their physician’s office to understand what types of preventative measures are being implemented and ensure their safety. Elderly individuals or their caregivers should ask questions aimed at face mask regulations, cleaning protocols, social distancing practices — to name a few. “During an outbreak like COVID-19, when it’s safer to remain at home, your doctor can advise whether or not your symptoms warrant an in-person visit,” says Frank.
While it’s been around for many years, Telehealth has only recently gained widespread adoption. Telehealth involves using telecommunications technologies, like videoconferencing and wireless communications, to support long-distance acute, chronic, primary, and specialty care. While some seniors are not considered technologically savvy, assistance from a loved one can allow vulnerable adults to receive care from the comfort of their own home. “Telehealth is beneficial for everyone. It can expand access to healthcare, limit exposure to COVID-19, preserve much-needed PPE supplies, and reduce the strain on hospitals and clinics.”
The Bottom Line
We all have someone in our life that we want to protect from COVID-19. By following Frank De-Levi’s expert advice and the guidelines suggested by the CDC, it’s possible to reduce their risk of becoming ill. If your elderly relative experiences various symptoms associated with COVID-19, contact their physician immediately and follow their direction.