How to help isolated seniors feel safe amid coronavirus outbreak

DETROIT – It’s important now more than ever that family members check in with the senior citizens in their lives.

Some may live in nursing homes or senior centers where visitors are no longer allowed -- or they’re living alone.

Clinical psychologist Donna Rockwell said keeping up with senior loved ones is crucial in a time like this.

“I would make sure that I call, every day if you can ... Couple times, maybe morning and at night and to use Facetime and Skype,” Rockwell said.

You can check with the facility where your loved one lives to see how you can communicate with them.

“We do have some family members communicating with signs and waving through the windows,” said Melissa Samuel, the president of the Health Care Association of Michigan.

Venus Rogers is a caregiver with Excellacare Home Health Care. She cares for seniors in their homes. She cooks, bathes, gives medications and makes sure the home is clean. For her, connecting with the seniors matters.

“I try. not to do a lot of contact just because of the coronavirus,” she said. “I do still talk with him.”

She is taking extra steps to keep her clients safe.

“The clients that I deal with as far as their age, they’re more susceptible to getting the virus,” she said.

The Area Agency on Aging has 2,000 seniors and disabled adults receiving in-home services. With the coronavirus outbreak, the agency is also making frequent wellness checks to make sure they are healthy, and have food and medications.

The Area Agency on Aging suggests making frequent calls to the seniors in your life to get a sense of how they’re feeling and what care they’re receiving. Ask a manager or supervisor of the facility what protocols are in place to keep people safe.

Listen for things that might be of concern. For example, if they don’t feel well, a friend is sick, or the facility they live in isn’t taking safety precautions.

MORE: Here’s which Michigan counties have confirmed cases of coronavirus

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

MORE: Beaumont Health launches coronavirus hotline for patients with symptoms

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

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