With the official start of summer behind us, many Americans are embracing the reopening of communities from coronavirus shut-downs. Unsurprisingly, most people wish to get back to “normal.” But medical experts warn that everyone must still remain vigilant. In fact, the most recent data suggests a second wave may already be forming.
Regardless of whether or not the new infection surge continues, the reality is many people—including seniors—will resume some sort of lifestyle normalcy. It’s therefore critical for responsible family members to do their part to help ensure the safety of aging loved ones.
Here are 7 ways to promote a safer transition from COVID-19 shutdown for the aging adult in your life.
- Understand the prevailing risks – As previously stated, the latest data suggests America may actually be experiencing coronavirus resurgence, which is especially evident in certain regions like Florida, Texas and California. It seems the country will continue to reopen in phases as a matter of economic and social practicality. However, that doesn’t mean the danger has passed.
Families should remind aging relatives of the continued risk. Many older people are less news savvy and may not be aware of the most current trends. Education is important in order to fight complacency. “Mom” should know she’s taking a risk whenever she leaves the home. Only then can she can make calculated decisions regarding her own health.
- Slowly reassume prioritized and less-risky activities – The continued COVID-19 risk, which is especially dangerous for seniors, means all outside activities should be assessed and prioritized. Perhaps shopping at the grocery store is unacceptable given the availability of delivery services. But venturing out for lunch with a friend might result in mental and emotional health benefits that justify the exposure.
Everyone must make their own determinations based on personal priorities. But generally speaking, seniors should slowly wade into the water without diving in head first. For the time being, risk mitigation is still important.
- Stay diligent in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – Older Americans who do participate in their community’s reopening can limit their COVID-19 exposure by utilizing PPE. Per CDC guidelines, the most important infection-prevention tools relevant to daily life are face masks and hand sanitizer. PPE should also be complimented by practices such as regular hand washing and avoiding contact with highly-exposed surfaces.
- Limit interaction with at-risk individuals – Some people are more likely to transmit COVID-19 than others. These include first responders, healthcare professionals and those who work in large public settings. Folks who continue to congregate in large social groups are also high risk.
Seniors must understand that all interactions aren’t equal. Also, it’s important to remember many younger and healthier folks might be unknowingly-infected. Family and friends will sympathize with aging loved ones’ concerns regarding exposure risk. So, nobody should feel bad when explaining why they must maintain social distancing.
- Mitigate exposure when leaving the home – “Social distancing” seems to be one of the most commonly-used terms these days. But there’s a good reason medical experts are so adamant in preaching its virtues. Simply put, social distancing is the single best way to limit infection risk.
A healthier senior may find it’s relatively safe to play a round of golf with a low-exposure friend while adhering to recommended social-distancing protocols. But that same activity could be risky without a well-planned and dedicated effort. How might her risk increase if she instead shared a golf cart with three other players or interacted with dozens of people at the driving range?
- Be cognizant of non-COVID risks too – Muscle atrophy is a real phenomenon, and seniors are especially vulnerable to experiencing weakness and balance challenges after long sedentary periods. An aging loved one who first leaves the home after several months of isolation is far more likely to experience a dangerous fall than a younger, healthier person.
In addition to general fall risk, the chaotic pandemic environment poses other unique dangers for seniors. Grocery stores and businesses now have longer-than-usual lines and special protocols that can be physically taxing for older folks. And while the wearing of masks is proven to reduce infection spread, the practice can also obstruct breathing for people with underlying health issues.
- Embrace senior-focused technology – While there’s no one perfect solution for preventing COVID-19 infection, there are affordable tools that promote senior safety more holistically. And “personal emergency response solutions” (PERS) are among the most effective. Seniors are vulnerable to falls and other medical emergencies, even during the best of times. But as previously discussed, their risk is further heightened due to the pandemic.
PERS technology provides peace of mind for both aging adults and their loved ones. And an advanced system with “on-the-go” technology, like LifeFone, actually empowers seniors during their transition from lockdown to “normal life.” Seniors with LifeFone emergency response service can venture outside and around town knowing they will have immediate help available in the event of a fall or other medical episode.
Right now, many Americans are trying to balance COVID-19 risks in light of community reopening measures. While it’s normal for people to want to resume daily routines, dangers still abound. And the consequences of infection are especially high for aging adults and those with preexisting health conditions. There’s no perfect answer, but families should try to assess their aging relatives’ risks individually and develop responsible plans for safely reentering the community.
If you’re concerned about a loved one’s safety during these risky times, be sure to discuss medical alert solutions with a LifeFone representative for peace of mind today!