In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many seniors are left with questions about the status of services and how to stay connected with loved ones.
To help, we’ve compiled this comprehensive resource guide for seniors that covers essential coronavirus questions along with several resources to help stay updated and ensure your well-being throughout the situation.
NOTE: This is NOT medical advice, please consult with a healthcare professional for more information.
General Coronavirus Information
While there’s a seemingly endless amount of information about the coronavirus situation, we’ve summarized the most important things for you to know. For more information, check out our Coronavirus Prevention Tips for Elderly People guide which covers other common questions along with detailed prevention tips.
What is the Coronavirus?
You may have heard the terms “coronavirus”, “COVID-19”, or “novel coronavirus” — but these all being used interchangeably to refer to a respiratory disease that emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The virus spreads from person-to-person through surfaces and respiratory droplets that can be released through actions such as coughing or sneezing in public places. The median incubation period for the virus is approximately 5 days, and 97.5% of infected individuals will begin experiencing symptoms by 11.5 days. The severity of symptoms varies from person-to-person, but elderly individuals or people with pre-existing conditions are most at risk for developing severe symptoms due to their weaker immune system compared to younger adults.
How to Reduce Your Exposure to Coronavirus
There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus which means prevention is the best way to protect yourself and others. To help you take the necessary precautions, we’ve compiled a list of prevention tips from the CDC:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Use hand sanitizer when you are unable to use a sink
- Stay at least 6 feet away from individuals when going to public places
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth when going to public places
- Cover coughs and sneezes even in a private setting
- Clean frequently touched surfaces daily (such as doorknobs, light switches, and phones)
What to Do if You Think You Might Have Coronavirus?
Common symptoms of coronavirus include coughing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, and fever or chills. If you exhibit these symptoms and believe you may be infected, follow these steps from the CDC:
- Stay home and see if you recover
- Separate yourself from others in your home by staying in a specific room
- Monitor symptoms to see if they progress (seek emergency medical attention if you have trouble breathing or persistent chest pain)
- Call your medical center before visiting
- Stay in the hospital or at home until further notice from your medical provider
Coronavirus Resources for Seniors
As the situation continues, there are several ways to stay updated on the latest news and announcements regarding coronavirus:
- Health Information from the CDC
- Live Update Trackers from News Outlets
- State-by-State Coronavirus Resources
Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facility Concerns
Both seniors and loved ones may have questions regarding the status, operation, and new rules for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. This information will vary by each community, but here’s some general information from the American Health Care Association and CDC:
Family and Friends
Many state governments are restricting visitors to nursing homes and long-term care facilities because these populations are at an increased risk for developing severe symptoms. Exceptions may be made under extreme circumstances, but the best way to determine if you can visit your loved one is by calling the facility directly. Ensure the facility has up-to-date emergency contact information and coordinate with them before visiting.
Residents and Patients
Nursing home and long-term care facility residents are encouraged to stay in their homes or outdoors, but away from groups as much as possible. Visitors should be restricted to essential individuals responsible for maintaining health, well-being, and safety. It’s also advised to utilize a “buddy” system in which each resident has a friend or family member who regularly checks on them using non-face-to-face communication such as a daily phone or video call.
With regards to medical services, residents should contact their primary caretaker and discuss alternative methods for continuing services such as telehealth. It may be possible to continue services such as regular appointments and physical or occupational therapy through video sessions. You should also work with your health care provider to ensure you have an adequate supply of prescription medication on-hand, or see if mail-order medication may be needed.
Seniors are encouraged to stay-at-home as much as possible, but having proper nutrition is essential for staying healthy which means you’ll need to find a way to get groceries or meals while minimizing public contact. To help, we’ve compiled a list of options for ensuring you have access to meals:
1. Senior Hours, Curbside Pickup, and Delivery at Grocery Stores
For seniors who still need to go to grocery stores, many U.S. retailers are offering special hours for older shoppers. Most retailers have these hours available for seniors above the age of 60 in the morning between 6 to 8 a.m. on designated weekdays. For a list of national retailers with senior hours, check out this resource from AARP.
Some retailers are also offering curbside pickup or even delivery, in which you can submit an online grocery list and store workers will pick out the items so all you have to do is wait at home or park and open your trunk. For a list of national retailers offering curbside pickup, check out this resource from Business Insider or contact your local store to check they’re offering curbside pickup or grocery delivery.
2. Restaurant Takeout/Delivery Services
If you’d like to get food from a local restaurant, you can drive-through (if applicable), schedule a pickup, or utilize services that will deliver food directly to your door. Here’s a compilation of the most popular food delivery services:
These services are all pretty similar, so take a look at their website or app and use the one you like best or the one that offers delivery for your favorite local restaurants.
Older adults may have unique circumstances that could cause issues with managing finances during the coronavirus situation, which is why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created several resources specifically for seniors.
- Mobile and online banking tips for beginners
- How to stay on top of finances during the coronavirus pandemic
- Tips for avoiding scams
Additionally, we’ve also written an extensive guide on How Coronavirus Affects Life Insurance Policies in case you have any questions on this matter.
Elderly individuals may be taking several prescription medications which will need to be refilled at some point. If you’re worried about going out to a pharmacy, here are a couple alternatives many people are using during this time:
- Prescription Delivery: Many pharmacies and retailers are delivering prescriptions and waving these fees; for a complete list of national retailers offering this service you can check out this resource from AARP.
- Mail-Order: You may be able to get prescriptions mailed to you if urgency is not an issue. To find out if this is an option, talk with your health insurance provider.
- Friend or Family Delivery: If neither of the above options are available, you may need a friend or family member to pick up your prescription. Some pharmacies may require you to fill out an authorization form first, so call to see what you’ll need to do.
Home Exercise Resources
While staying home can lead some to become more sedentary than usual, it’s very important to stay active through home exercise routines. To help you maintain physical activity, you can check out our in-depth Indoor Activities for Seniors in Isolation Guide or the following workout videos specifically for seniors.
Video Workouts for Seniors
For more tips on staying active during the coronavirus pandemic, you can also check out other recommendations from the National Council on Aging.
Free Video Chat Services
To help stay connected with friends and family, many people are hosting online video calls one-on-one or with large groups. To help you find the right video chat service, we’ve compiled the most popular free options with a brief description of each.
If you have an Apple device such as an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer — the easy-to-use Facetime app may be your best option. Simply launch the app and invite up to 32 friends, the only limitation is that the people you invite must also have Apple devices. To set up Facetime, follow these instructions.
Google Duo or Hangouts
Google’s Duo app is an alternative to Facetime that works with both Android and Apple devices making it a great choice for video chatting with up to 12 people through a smartphone. To set up Google Duo, follow these instructions. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also use Google Hangouts which works through a web browser as long as your computer has a camera and microphone. Simply use a Gmail account if you already have one or create one and follow these instructions to get started with Hangouts.
The Microsoft owned Skype works across devices including phones, computers, and even Amazon Alexa devices. The popular service allows up to 50 people on a single video call and you can set it up by following these instructions.
Zoom has become one of, if not the most used video chat services and is especially popular for businesses because it enables up to 100 people to hop on a single group call. For consumers, you can use it across mobile and desktop devices and set up is fairly easy by following these instructions.