As we write this, the United States has 1.75 million COVID-19 cases, and deaths have just surpassed 100,000. Of those, Iowa accounts for just over 17,000 cases, and barely shy of 450 deaths, numbers that will surely have changed by the time you read this. That has many of us wondering about the kinds of precautions we should be taking. It’s a task made more difficult as the nature and understanding of the virus — and what that means for both a public health response and responses closer to home — evolve. If you’re a senior, what precautions make sense given what we know right now? NewAldaya Lifescapes takes a closer look.
Commonsense Coronavirus Precautions
Understand How the Virus Spreads
We’ll cover this very briefly. In short, there are three things that help a virus spread: contact, time, and concentration. In very confined spaces where people gather, there’s more of the virus in the air and a higher risk of infection. Minimize your time (get in and out quickly) concentration (wear a mask), and contact (keep your distance) to minimize your chances of infection.
Ensure Vaccinations are Up to Date
Make sure that you’re vaccinated, especially against influenza and pneumonia. Other vaccinations should also be kept current, or considered if you haven’t already had them (i.e., the shingles vaccine). You don’t want to take every precaution against one illness just to be surprised by another!
Wear a Mask
“Wait, weren’t they telling us not to wear masks before they started requiring them?” Yes. But that’s because as public health officials’ understanding of disease spread changes, so does their guidance. A simple cloth mask is helpful to protect you, and help you protect others if you’re infected without realizing it.
We’ve all heard plenty about essential workers — the doctors, nurses, first responders, home health aides, and retail clerks — who are keeping things running these days. What about the rest of us? If you’re thinking of heading out, think just a bit harder. Avoid pharmacies and doctors’ offices unless absolutely necessary. Keep your errands minimal. Avoid areas with large crowds, or take advantage of special seniors-only hours when they’re available. Remember that much of what you need can also be delivered, helping you to keep exposure to a minimum.
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily. This applies to things you’d expect like doorknobs, handles, toilets, fixtures, and other household areas. But it also applies to things we often touch without a second thought (like our phones).
Wash Your Hands. Yes, Again.
One of the most effective things we can do to protect ourselves is one of the simplest. If you’ve come in from outside — whether you’ve picked up a loaf of bread, or just picked up your mail — wash your hands for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Stock Up on Lotion
This won’t protect you from viruses, but if you’re washing your hands as often as you should, it’ll help keep them from feeling like scouring pads. Use something that absorbs quickly during the day, and use a heavier lotion (or even Vaseline) together with cotton gloves overnight while you sleep.
Other Things You Can Do
Being shut in for extended periods of time takes a significant toll on body and mind alike. So now that we’ve covered the precautions you should be taking, and some of the things you probably ought not to be doing, let’s shift our focus in a more positive direction. What can, and should, you do right now?
- Keep tabs on your health, watching for fever, cough, and especially shortness of breath. Do not hesitate to get in touch with your primary care physician or a hospital. Early treatment saves lives.
- Follow CDC guidelines, some of which are specifically tailored for seniors.
- Exercise within your abilities. It’s a great way to clear your head, get your blood pumping, and feel better.
- Get outdoors. Even walking at a moderate pace in the sunshine works wonders, just as long as you’re keeping a safe distance and covering up.
- Run errands if you must, but as we’ve discussed, be choosy about where and when you go, and get as much done in as few stops as possible.
- Visit, from a distance. Miss your best friend or your grandkids? A visit outdoors can lift everyone’s spirits.
- Find other ways to be social, from letter writing to phone calls and even videoconferencing (it’s easier — and a lot more fun — than you’d think).
Whether you’re living independently at a senior living facility, isolated with family or friends, or going it alone, these steps can help you make it to the other side of these unprecedented times with your health and your wits intact.