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COVID-19 and the Elderly: What You Should Know

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You support your elderly family members and loved ones in little ways all the time. With COVID-19 spreading, the older adults in your life will likely need to take extra care to stay safe and well.

The more you know about how coronavirus affects the elderly, the better prepared your family can be to give them the support they need.

Older Adults Face a High Risk of Severe Illness From Coronavirus

Along with people who have chronic health conditions, older adults face a higher risk of getting severely sick from coronavirus, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From what we know about novel coronavirus cases around the globe, elderly people have the most severe cases. February data from the CDC show that in China, 77% of confirmed coronavirus cases were in people ages 30 to 69 years old, and the highest fatality rates were among people over age 80.

In early March, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, updated the public on COVID-19. “This seems to be a disease that affects adults. And most seriously older adults,” Dr. Messonnier explained. “Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age,” she continued, “the highest risk of serious illness and death is in people older than 80 years.”

Dr. Messonnier also explained that the people who face the highest risk also have health conditions like:

However, getting coronavirus doesn't necessarily mean you'll develop life-threatening illness. Dr. Messonnier explained that based on what’s known about coronavirus now, she does not expect most Americans to get severely ill. And even though they face a higher risk of getting sick, older adults can take simple steps to keep themselves safe and healthy.

How Older Adults Can Prepare for Coronavirus

In her telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier gave specific advice for at-risk adults to prepare for coronavirus. If you have an elderly loved one in your life, you can help them with each of the steps Dr. Messonnier recommends:

  • Buy enough household goods and groceries 
  • Have a supply of your prescription medicines ready
  • Stock routine medications, like those for high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Stock your emergency kit with medical supplies to treat fever

For older adults and the elderly, Dr. Messonnier also recommends precautions like:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoiding crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces
  • Avoiding high-touch surfaces in public places
  • Avoiding non-essential travel, including plane trips and cruises
  • Staying home if you’re feeling sick
  • Washing your hands often, for 20 seconds each time

For more recommendations, watch the CDC’s video on what older adults need to know to stay safe from coronavirus, told by Jay Butler, the CDC’s Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases.

“These are the kind of recommendations that I have made to my parents,” Dr. Messonnier said, explaining how her family is taking these precautions seriously, and encouraging yours to do the same.

How to Help Keep Your Elderly Loved Ones Safe

In her public address, Dr. Messonnier encouraged listeners to work together, noting that safety is everyone’s responsibility. “Everyone has a role to play to protect our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors who are most at risk,” she said in the telebriefing.

The CDC recommends a few ways for loved ones and family members to keep older adults safe, including:

  • Grocery shopping with your loved one for non-perishable food items
  • Helping your loved one gather medical supplies needed like oxygen, dialysis, wound care and other supplies
  • If your loved one is in a care facility, ask about the protocol if an outbreak occurs
  • Knowing which medications your loved one needs, and helping them build a supply, if necessary

At AdventHealth, we’re here to see your family through. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for regular coronavirus updates, answers to your coronavirus FAQs and more important information for your family.

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