As cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) rise in the United States, so do concerns about the illness. Early data shows that for most people who become ill with COVID-19, the symptoms are mild. However, some people, specifically older adults and those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease, seem to be at higher risk for more severe symptoms and complications. They are also more susceptible to contracting the virus.
Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that older adults are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness, it is especially important for older adults and their loved ones to take precautions against the virus.
Why are older adults at greater risk?
Health officials continue to research the virus and are still learning about specific risk factors. The CDC believes that older adults may be more susceptible to the virus for two reasons:
1.) As people age, their immune systems change, making it harder for their body to fight off diseases and infection, and
2.) Many older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from illness.
If I’m an older adult, what can I do to protect myself against COVID-19?
If you are an older adult or someone who has a chronic medical condition, you should follow all of the preventive measures recommended for everyone—that is wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and avoid contact with anyone who is ill—plus you’ll want to take a few additional precautions.
Here’s what the CDC says you should do if you are at greater risk:
- Stay at home as much as possible. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, avoid crowds. Now is the time to consider, “Is there someone who can do grocery shopping for me? Is there a service that can run my errands for me?” Look into grocery delivery service in your area if possible, or ask a friend, family member or neighbor for help.
- If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, you might need to stay home for prolonged periods of time, so make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies. Ask your health care provider for extra prescription medications to have on hand. If you cannot get extra medications, consider using a mail-order service.
- Make sure you have enough household items and groceries in case you have to stay home for a prolonged period of time. Again, consider a grocery delivery service or home care service to assist with errands and shopping if possible.
Make a plan now for what to do if you get sick. Create a contact list of friends, family members, neighbors, doctors and others you can rely on for help. Research senior home care services. Some services provide meal preparation for seniors, grocery delivery, and sick-at-home care. If you have a caregiver, consider who can help you if he or she gets sick.
- Watch for COVID-19 symptoms. Call your health care provider if you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Talk to your doctor about your specific situation and whether there are other steps you should take.
I am concerned about an older loved one. What can I do to help?
Stay in contact with your loved one. If possible, help him or she get extra medications, non-perishable food and household items on hand. Create a plan in the event your loved one requires quarantined home care. Have a back-up plan for care in the event you or your loved one’s caregiver gets sick. If your loved one lives in a care facility, the CDC recommends you monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
People at Higher Risk for COVID-19 Complications
COVID-19 Information for Travel