With the world heading into the fourth year of dealing with the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, it can sometimes seem like the virus is old hat, something we’re merely living with now, and an unfortunate fact of life. But the fact is the virus remains as potent and debilitating as ever, and older people are known to be more at risk of serious illnesses due to coronavirus. Those with pre-existing medical conditions and those who are immune system compromised are at a particular risk. The vast majority of older adults do not live in residential facilities, despite popular perception, and are instead cared for by their family members. Therefore, the coronavirus is especially worrisome for those who are living with their elderly loved ones in a multigenerational home.
Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing is a good first step towards protecting your elderly loved ones. Don’t panic, but prepare your home for allowing the possibility that you will need to limit your time in public spaces. As the CDC puts it, the best way to prevent an infection from an illness is to avoid being exposed to that illness in the first place.
Keep as much distance as possible between the different people in the home. For example, limit the elderly member of the household to one location, and don’t share personal items. The virus transmits easily among people in the same household, and older adults are at a higher risk level than healthy adults and children. Make every effort to minimize the potentially dangerous impact of multigenerational living.
By limiting contact with the elderly household member to one person, you can also minimize any points of transmission the disease may have to get to them. Designate a primary caregiver in the house who will be responsible for providing all contact with the elder within the home. The primary caregiver should also make sure to limit their interactions each day with people outside of the home to reduce their own risk of exposure.
Follow handwashing guidelines as well. Wash hands often, especially after touching any shared surfaces like counters or doorknobs, for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. The CDC has recommended we become very serious about personal hygiene, even within our own homes. Regular soap and water is the most effective method for protecting against the spreading of the virus. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure that it contains at least 60 percent alcohol by volume. Cover all surfaces of your hands with sanitizer and rub together until dry.
Above all, make sure to spend time outside. The fear and anxiety that comes with the virus and all the precautions against it can be overwhelming, especially on top of the regular daily stresses of life, and the extra everyday stressors of being a caregiver to an elderly person. Limit your exposure to news reports and social media, and make sure to do things like go for walks, indulge in outdoor hobbies like gardening, or simply sit on the porch and take in the sun. You can bring your parent along as well to give them a break from the indoors as well.