Caregiving

6/1/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

COVID-19 is taking a toll on the older population. While all age groups can contract the disease, older people, especially those over 80, are at a much higher risk of having a severe case or dying from the disease. The rate of hospitalization also increases with age. Underlying conditions like diabetes, asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, heart conditions, and lung disease put people at risk of a more severe case of COVID-19. Since about 66% of people over 70 have at least one underlying condition, this puts them at greater risk from COVID-19.

These are worrying statistics, especially if you have aging parents. But remember that contracting COVID-19, even for someone over 80, is not a death sentence. Doctors and researchers don’t really know yet exactly which patients are unlikely to recover. Most patients do recover; take, for example, the 93-year-old woman from New Orleans who recovered after breathing with the help of a breathing tube for three days. This pandemic is a scary situation, but here is what to do and what to expect if your aging parent is diagnosed with COVID-19.

If They Suspect They Are Sick

If your parent shows symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, sore throat, or sudden loss of smell or taste, call their doctor immediately. Or, if they have emergency symptoms, like difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent chest pain or pressure, bluish lips or face, or new or worsening confusion, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical attention.

COVID-19: What to Do If You Think You Have It

If They Are Hospitalized

If your parent is diagnosed with COVID-19, and develops a severe case, they might need to be hospitalized. The hospitalization rate patients over 85 is about 17.2 per 100,000 (compared to 4.6 people per 100,000 overall). If they are hospitalized, you probably won’t be able to visit. Most hospitals have implemented strict no-visitor policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Hospital staff encourage communication via phone or video chat instead of in-person visits. Your parent may have to stay in the hospital for several weeks, where medical staff will monitor their lungs and breathing and signs of secondary infections.

To prepare for their return home, clean and disinfect their home. Stock up on food, cleaning supplies, medication, and other essentials so they, you, or their caregiver can focus on their recovery.

If They Can Recover at Home

Instead of being admitted to the hospital, patients with a less severe case of COVID-19 are sent home to recover. If your parent lives alone, consider becoming their temporary live-in caregiver or hiring a caregiver to monitor their symptoms and take care of their needs while they recover. If space allows, your parent should remain in a separate room and use a separate bathroom to prevent spreading the infection. They should wear a face mask when they are around others (even pets), and it’s a good idea for you, or the caregiver, to wear a mask, too. Try to provide good airflow, like air conditioners, fans, or open windows, in any shared spaces. The caregiver must keep surfaces, like doorknobs, counters, and tables, disinfected and avoid touching anything your parent has touched. Wash shared dishes, glasses, and utensils in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher. Everyone in the household should wash their hands often.

Restricting the spread of the coronavirus is essential. Don’t allow any visitors except for those who have to be in the house. The caregiver should also limit contact with people outside of the household and wear a mask when running errands or when they can’t avoid being around other people.

Recovery Time and What to Expect

Most patients diagnosed with COVID-19 feel better in about a week. But if your parent has other medical issues, it may take longer for them to recover. If you are caring for your parent at home, watch them carefully to see if their condition gets worse. Have their doctor’s number on hand if you have any questions or problems.

Experts at the CDC say that people who have had COVID-19 can be around other people again after all of these conditions have been met: when their symptoms improve, after three days with no fever, and after 10 days since the symptoms first appeared. Your parent’s doctor may retest them for the disease. In that case, they can be around other people after two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. This depends on your parent’s doctor, though, and the availability of tests in your area. Because older people may have underlying conditions or weakened immune systems, don’t be surprised if the doctor acts on the side of caution and insists they isolate themselves longer than the average COVID-19 patient.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff