Coronavirus Resources

Why Coronavirus Seems to Hit Older Adults the Hardest

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Based on the information available so far, people of all ages can become infected with coronavirus. But most cases have been in adults, and illnesses have ranged from very mild, including some with no symptoms, to severe.

Whether people get severely ill seems to be associated with certain risk factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that some people have a higher risk for more severe complications with COVID-19. This includes older adults and people of any age with a serious underlying health condition.

Early Data: Older Adults Have a Higher Risk for Serious Illness

Among adults with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, eight out of 10 reported deaths have been in adults age 65 and older, as reported by the CDC on March 18, 2020. This early data showed that adults ages 65+, and in particular, age 85 and older, have experienced higher rates of serious illness as follows.

Estimated percentage who required hospitalization:

  • 31–70% of adults age 85 and older
  • 31–59% of adults age 65 to 84

Estimated percentage who required admission to intensive care:

  • 6–29% of adults age 85 and older
  • 11–31% of adults age 65 to 84

Estimated percentage who died:

  • 10–27% of adults age 85 and older
  • 4–11% of adults age 65 to 84

What Raises the Risk for Older Adults

Our immune systems change as we age, weakening our bodies’ ability to fend off challenges — like bacteria or viruses that cause infections — as well as they did when we were younger.

Add to that: Older adults are more likely to have one or more of the serious underlying conditions that put everyone at higher risk, including:

  • Chronic kidney disease or undergoing dialysis
  • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Conditions or treatments that compromise the immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Serious heart conditions

Long-Term Care Facilities Can Pose Added Risks for COVID-19

Coronavirus spreads between people who are in close contact with one another, through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It can also spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

Residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are often older and tend to have multiple chronic health conditions, already putting them at increased risk. Their risk climbs even higher because they live together in a group, sharing common rooms for dining and equipment for recreational activities.

The CDC advises these facilities to assume coronavirus is present and has issued guidelines specifically to help prevent the spread of the virus. These include:

  • Actively screening residents for fever and respiratory symptoms
  • Canceling group activities and communal dining
  • Restricting visitors

How to Protect Yourself or a Loved One From Coronavirus

The CDC recommends that everyone follow these everyday preventive measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory infections, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid large social gatherings
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with others, such as handshakes and hugging
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
  • Keep distance between yourself and others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

If you are age 65 or older or caring for someone who is, the CDC advises following these additional steps to help prevent becoming sick with COVID-19:

  • Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential plane trips
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Stay at least two arm lengths away from anyone who is sick
  • Stay home
  • Wash hands often

Tips for Managing Stress and Coping With the COVID-19 Pandemic

Living in a time of a pandemic can be quite stressful, especially for those who have a higher risk for severe illness and their caregivers. You or your loved one may experience strong emotions of fear and anxiety, especially if a nursing home is not allowing visitors.

Things you can do to support yourself and stay grounded during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the CDC, are:

  • Do some activities you enjoy
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Keep a journal
  • Make time to relax
  • Take breaks from the news
  • Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Video chat with loved ones

Help at Your Fingertips

Get in touch through the AdventHealth app, where you can message your care team, access your medical records and schedule a video visit with your physician. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for more information and to find answers to your coronavirus FAQs.

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