A Coronavirus guide for senior citizens is essential reading in this period of uncertainty. These are unprecedented times. Of course, America’s senior citizens have seen their share of epochal events. From VE Day to the Cuban Missile Crisis. From Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech to 9/11. Few events in history have been so immediate and potentially worrying as the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Mixed messages from governments and alarming news headlines are heightening the feeling of uncertainty. Americans are distressed throughout the nation; most acutely by our senior citizens. A highly vulnerable demographic, seniors are the most likely to get seriously sick from COVID-19.
Our duty to inform, reassure and protect our nation’s seniors has become more important than ever! Over on our Facebook page, we invited our subscribers to share their questions and concerns.
In this guide to Coronavirus and older adults, we’ll address your questions directly. We’ll help our readers to cut through the myths and misinformation. This will allow them to protect themselves and their families in this difficult and challenging time.
We will get through this together! In the meantime, it’s up to us to take the proper precautions. We must do our part to ensure the safety of our nation. We hope you’ll find our elderly guide for Coronavirus useful.
How is Coronavirus caught?
To adapt our behavior, we need to understand exactly how people catch the COVID-19 virus. The virus is transmitted through droplets of moisture when infected people cough or sneeze.
A single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets. Just one sneeze can produce as many as 10,000. These droplets land on surfaces. Uninfected people touch these surfaces and come into contact with the virus. It enters the person’s system if they touch their face (especially the mouth and eyes). This is why proper hand sanitation and the rigorous cleaning of surfaces are so vitally important.
Readers have asked us on Facebook whether the virus is airborne. Whether they can breathe it in if someone coughs or sneezes close to them. There is some debate on this matter. Studies are now underway to determine how long the virus can last in the air.
According to recent studies, the virus can only last a few hours in the air. Or less outside, depending on temperature. It can last around 24 hours on cardboard. It may last for as long as 3 days on surfaces like stainless steel or plastic.
Droplets cannot travel far in the air which is why social distancing outdoors is so essential.
Always Practice Good Hygiene
The US government is sending out good hygiene tips that we should all practice. Above all, these tips can help decrease our chances of contracting and spreading the Coronavirus.
- Wash your hands, especially after touching any commonly used items or surfaces.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
- Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces.
Coronavirus Symptoms to watch out for
Those infected by the Coronavirus may show no symptoms for up to 14 days after infection. As soon as symptoms start to show, seek medical advice. This applies to you, your partner, or anyone else in your home. This video explains what the early symptoms of the virus look and feel like.
- A temperature
- A dry cough
- And in some extreme cases shortness of breath
Some rarer symptoms include:
- Joint/muscle pain
- Sore throat
How do you get tested, and is the Coronavirus test covered by Medicare?
Readers have requested that we include information on testing in our Coronavirus guide for seniors. If you experience the symptoms above, testing is vital. It will help you get the help you need. The good news is that the cost of the test is covered by Medicare Part B! Furthermore, many Advantage Plan providers are waiving the usual copays or preauthorization requirements.
However, as this article by CNBC states, getting a test isn’t as simple as going into a pharmacy or your doctor’s office and asking for one. It needs to be approved by your doctor.
Healthcare facilities flooded by people needing urgent medical attention to deal with the virus. Tests are currently only available where they’re deemed medically necessary. However, seniors, especially those with pre-existing health conditions are usually deemed high risk and will be prioritized for testing.
If you start to feel sick, the best plan is to contact your doctor and they will advise you accordingly. They will either arrange a test or instruct you to self-isolate for up to 7 days before taking further action. The CDC website has lots more information on who to contact if you feel sick.
Why washing your hands is always the best defense
We’re seeing some scary behaviors in the news. We hope this elderly guide for coronavirus will help clear up things.
Many are currently panic buying large quantities of hand sanitizer and antibacterial hand washes. This has raised the false flag that these are the only way to protect ourselves. Regular handwashing with soap and water is the best way to protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus.
This article explains why soap and water are so effective in killing the virus. The short version, however, is that viral cells are surrounded by a layer of fats (lipids).
When we clean our greasy dishes, the combination of soap and water cut through the fat. Leaving the plate squeaky clean. In the same way, soap and water destroy the fatty outer layer of viral cells. Meaning that soap and water literally tear the virus apart.
We recommend washing your hands:
- After going outside, especially if you have used public transport or visited your local pharmacy or grocery store
- After using the bathroom or changing the diaper of a child or grandchild
- Before and after handling raw foods like meat or vegetables
- Before eating
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After accepting a package or delivery
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After touching pets or their food. While pets do not carry the virus it’s good practice to do this anyway.
To self-isolate or not to self-isolate?
Self-isolation is a point of confusion when it comes to Coronavirus and older adults in the US. Unlike many other countries, the US has not yet officially gone into lockdown.
Still, many of our readers have chosen to self-isolate to minimize their exposure to others. We highly recommend this behavior. It is the best way to limit your exposure to the virus and reduce your risk of passing it on. Remember, you can be a carrier but not have any symptoms.
If everyone commits to doing this, we can flatten the curve and prevent the virus from tearing through our population. Especially in our most densely populated cities and towns. However, we realize that this may be easier for some readers than others. We’ll discuss your concerns about work and jobs shortly.
If we could reduce our Coronavirus guide for seniors to one sentence it would be this:
Stay indoors unless absolutely necessary!
Going outside: How often should you do it and what precautions should you take?
How active should you be right now? It’s an important question for older adults that want to avoid Coronavirus. Staying active and enjoying a wide range of activities is crucial to the enjoyment of senior living. Not least of which is a daily constitutional. Our readers are happy to make lifestyle concessions for the good of the nation. It’s not the first time for many of them. Still, we understand that being cooped up at home isn’t always conducive to our mental or physical health.
We suggest taking a page out of the playbooks of other countries and limiting trips outside to:
- 1 walk per day to get a daily dose of exercise
- Limited trips to the grocery store or pharmacy to buy essentials (these should be limited as much as possible)
- Essential work
- Providing care or assistance to someone more vulnerable than yourself
What about pets?
Some readers may be concerned about walking their dog or letting their adventurous cat into the home. The good news is that there’s no evidence that household pets can catch or transmit the Coronavirus. The World Organization for Animal Health has recently announced that “there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare”.
When going outside, you can mitigate your risk by taking the following precautions:
Remember the 6-foot rule
The evidence states that COVID-19 infected droplets can’t travel more than roughly 2 meters / 6 feet. Remain at least 6 feet from others at all times. This is one of the most important rules in our Coronavirus guide for seniors!
There’s some evidence to suggest that the virus can live on clothes and shoes. How long is still unclear. We recommend wearing different clothes for indoors and outdoors. Remove your shoes before you go inside. This will avoid tracking in potentially infected dirt. Remember to launder your clothes regularly after wearing them.
We recommend wearing gloves when outside and avoiding touching barriers and guardrails where possible. Using a walking stick or frame? Wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe before and after going out.
Many of our readers are unsure whether or not to wear surgical masks when outside. Some may worry about getting funny looks from neighbors. Others may have heard that masks will do nothing to prevent transmission of the virus.
Studies actually show that wearing a mask can block airborne droplets and increase your protection from the virus by up to 500%. It can also prevent you from unknowingly passing the virus to others if you’re infected but without symptoms. It’s not a magic bullet against the virus. However, it’s a good precaution to take if you’re in a busy environment or looking after a vulnerable loved one.
One reader posed an excellent question:
“Yes or no to homemade masks? Who should/not wear and when. If homemade masks [are] okay, what material available is best to use?”
Many consumers panic buying protective and surgical masks in bulk. Our readers might wonder if their own homemade masks might prove effective. As this article indicates, homemade masks can be 50% effective in filtering out infected particles.
A surgical mask is typically around 80% effective.
The best materials from which to make DIY masks are the following:
- Dish towels (around 82% as effective as a surgical mask)
- Cotton blend t-shirts (74%)
- 100% cotton t-shirts (69%)
- Antimicrobial pillowcases (65%)
Can you / should you go to work?
Many active seniors still work, even after retirement. It helps them to keep busy and remain financially secure. However, some of our readers are very concerned that their employers are putting them at risk. Some employers are refusing to close or not taking the virus seriously. Many of these readers also have spouses at home and worry about putting them further at risk.
As one of our subscribers succinctly put it on Facebook:
“I work retail and my wife has COPD…..really concerned what I’m bringing home to her.”
“My employer feels this is all a bunch of baloney and will not let us close. I tend to use Clorox wipes all day and get ridiculed by a coworker who says you gotta die from something might as well be the coronavirus. I need to work but am scared”
Until recently, the US government did not protect employees from loss of income when they are sick or self-isolating; outside of whatever sick pay may be available in their state of residence.
Coronavirus Relief Bill
President Trump signed off on a coronavirus relief bill to provide sick pay to those affected by the virus. We wrote this comprehensive article which will help you to identify whether or not you qualify for a stimulus check. You can also use our Stimulus Check Calculator to see what you’re entitled to.
We appreciate that some of our readers will be forced to continue to work to keep their bills paid.
If you absolutely have to work, continue to take all possible precautions at work and when coming home.
- Wash your hands as frequently as possible.
- Maintain social distancing at all times.
- Carry a bottle of sanitizing gel and wear rubber surgical gloves if you’re able.
- Check with your employer if they’re willing to provide or let you wear a surgical mask to work.
- Change your clothes immediately when you get home.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before interacting with others in your home.
Infection and reinfection: Can you catch the Coronavirus twice?
One subscriber asked us a question which raises an excellent point:
“My husband & I decided to self-isolate, happy with that to keep safe. Just wondering do the people who have recovered have life long immunity from the virus”
Many assume that those who contract the coronavirus are immune from future reinfection. However, as this article from Forbes demonstrates, while reinfection is rare, those affected are not necessarily completely immune. In certain provinces of China, reinfection rates were reported to be as high as 14%.
At the moment, it’s too early to tell what we can expect in terms of reinfection rates. Or whether the virus will mutate. Infection may make you less likely to be infected in the future. It’s still imperative to do all that you can to avoid infection.
Medication and over the counter drugs: What’s safe and what isn’t?
Medication is an important consideration in this Coronavirus guide for seniors. Lots of our readers are unclear which drugs are safe at this time. But as recent events have shown, self-medication is extremely dangerous.
Just a couple of days ago a man in Arizona died after self-medicating with a form of the drug chloroquine used to treat fish tanks. He did not know that this form is highly toxic to humans. This occurred after President Trump sent a tweet suggesting that Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin could be effective against the virus. The President called the combination “one of the biggest game changes in the history of medicine”.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
Numerous medical experts replied stating that the combination has not been proven safe in clinical trials. Others accused the President of spreading dangerous misinformation. As scary and uncertain as the climate may be, we advise against this kind of preemptive self-medication.
Again, if you feel sick or experience symptoms, contact your doctor before taking any further action.
Some subscribers have asked us about over the counter drugs:
“I’m allergic to Tylenol and apparently ibuprofens is not suitable.???”
Rumors recently spread that those affected by, or concerned about coronavirus should avoid Ibuprofen. A rumor that was proven manifestly false. If you’re at all unsure about any prescription or over the counter drugs, always consult your doctor first.
Need help and support? Who to call
A Coronavirus guide for senior citizens needs to help people find support. Many seniors in self-isolation can rely on friends, family, and neighbors. They can shop for essential groceries, pick up prescription medications or lend emergency assistance.
We’re aware that not all of our readers have relatives or friends close by to rely on.
But there is help out there! We have seen many wonderful examples of community outreach all over the world. Concerned neighbors everywhere have volunteered their services to help the vulnerable in their communities.
If you need support, many groups have employed steps to make life easier for seniors in this difficult time.
Costco and Walgreens, for instance, have added senior shopping hours. This makes it easier for seniors to practice social distancing while getting their groceries. Many stores also offer contactless delivery for online shopping. This means groceries are left on your doorstep for you.
If you’re struggling to keep food at home, contact Feeding America, Meals on Wheels or the American Red Cross. There are also state-level volunteer groups who may be able to render assistance with food or medical aid. Medicare has also increased provision for telehealth services for those having difficulty getting to their local doctor’s office.
See this article for more information.
We also recommend looking up your local Area Agency on Aging, the AARP Assistance Directory and the Administration for Community Living. They will help you to find local services for Coronavirus and older adults.
Seeing the positives (and there are positives)
Finally, many of us are aching for a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. As one of our readers put it:
“Any positive information about Covid-19 is in dire need!!!”
Even in these dark times, there’s a lot to be positive and hopeful about. Not least the beautiful ways in which communities around the world have united in compassion and solidarity.
The world’s greatest medical minds are scrambling to create a vaccine for COVID-19. Identifying effective drug treatments for those infected (the combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin) may yet prove promising.
We’re already starting to see the curves flatten in China, South Korea, and Germany. The body of evidence is growing to show that social distancing works. If we all do our bit, we can pull together to beat this thing. We can come back stronger and more united as a nation and a world than ever.
Plus, self-isolation will give many seniors the chance to do the things for which they’re so often too busy. You can finally get around to any of the following ideas:
- Finishing that book you’ve been working on
- Building your home gym
- Spend more time with your beloved spouse
- Speak to your kids and grandkids more over the phone.
Even a cloud as dark as this has a silver lining!
We hope that our elderly guide for Coronavirus has helped you to find it.