Pictured: Dr. Davis, one of our medical directors does a resident assessment through the door from the Marjorie P. Lee courtyard. We are so appreciative of our dedicated partners during a time in which we must restrict visitors. We are dedicated to taking care of our residents as we always do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While illness can strike anyone, seniors are at increased risk — both for the disease and serious complications related to it. In fact, people 65 and older have accounted for up to 90 percent of all seasonal flu-related deaths in recent years, as well as up to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations, according to a recent study co-authored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statistics like this naturally raise concern during events like the recent novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 is a new disease, so we are still learning how it spreads and the severity of the illness it causes. Fortunately, credible organizations like the CDC and the World Health Organization are working tirelessly to keep us informed.
Below are some tips from these organizations to help seniors and their loved ones mitigate their risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus.
5 Ways for Seniors & Their Loved Ones to Stay Healthy & Well
1. Stay home and avoid any non-essential travel.
One thing we know about the coronavirus is that, like the flu, it spreads between people who are in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced from sneezing and coughing. To prevent community spread, Governor Mike DeWine issued a “stay at home” order for the state of Ohio on March 22, 2020. But Ohio isn’t the only place where people are being urged to stay home — as of March 31st, 32 states have some version of Shelter in Place.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the stay at home order “prohibits holding gatherings of any size and closes all nonessential businesses. It does NOT prohibit essential activities like going to the grocery store, receiving medical care, or taking your pet for a walk.” It is critical for all Ohioans to follow this order, as we must all do our part to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable populations.
During this time, seniors and their caregivers should stay at home as long as possible. If you need prescriptions, groceries, or other essential items, remember to practice social distancing and bring hand sanitizer or wear gloves. Consider designating one person to run essential errands and consolidating trips so you can reduce exposure to others. Also, make use of the resources on the Ohio Department of Health’s website to help you stay safe and informed.
2. Practice good hygiene habits.
Hand washing is a simple yet significant way seniors can protect themselves from germs. Proper hand washing comprises five steps: wetting, lathering, scrubbing (for at least 20 seconds or two rounds of the “Happy Birthday” song), rinsing and drying.
In addition to the front and back of hands, make sure seniors are also cleaning their wrists, between fingers, and under their nails. Perhaps the CDC puts it best in concluding, “Hand washing is a win for everyone, except the germs.”
While soap and water are best, frequent hand washing may not always be possible — especially for mobility-challenged seniors. In this case, hand sanitizer is a helpful alternative.
In addition to frequent hand washing, make sure you cough and sneeze into your elbow or a paper tissue — rather than into your hands — to prevent the spread of germs.
3. Maintain a clean environment.
In addition to bathroom and kitchen counters, doorknobs, television remotes, faucets, refrigerator, and dishwasher handles, and light switches are all breeding grounds for germs. Routinely disinfecting living spaces — paying careful attention to these areas — can stop germs before they spread.
And don’t forget to sanitize sponges and rags by running them through the dishwasher, microwaving them for a minute, or soaking them in bleach. Speaking of sanitizing, mobile devices are also germ hotspots. Use rubbing alcohol or disinfecting wipes to clean them without exposing them to water.
4. Eat (and drink) for optimal nutrition.
One of the reasons seniors are more susceptible to illness is because immune systems weaken with age. Eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet consisting of whole foods, whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables can help bolster immunity in seniors. If you think your aging loved one may be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, talk to his or her physician about dietary supplementation.
Drinking lots of water can also help ward off illness by keeping the nose lining moist. Says researcher Dr. David Lewis: “The first line of defense is the mucous membrane in the nose. This acts as sticky flypaper to trap things like dust, dirt, and bacteria and prevent them from getting to the lungs. If you are dehydrated, the mucous membrane will dry out. When this happens, it is half as effective.”
5. Commit to regular exercise.
Exercise is another healthy habit proven to fortify the immune system. Explains Harvard Health: “Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”
In other words, illness prevention is just one more item to add to the list of reasons why your aging loved one should be moving more.
An Update on COVID-19 from ERS
While these tips can help you and your aging loved ones reduce your risk of getting sick, you might be wondering what Episcopal Retirement Services is doing to protect our residents and prepare for a novel coronavirus outbreak.
ERS takes this matter very seriously and currently have mitigation strategies to minimize disease spread and are in the process of preparing for cases of COVID-19 in Ohio. As part of our preparedness efforts, we have ordered additional supplies and are re-training staff on our procedure for communicable diseases. Additionally, we are working with our staff to increase our cleaning schedule of surface areas and emphasize hand hygiene. Finally, with the community spread now rampant throughout the states of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana areas, ERS restricted families, visitors and non-essential caregivers to our retirement communities in addition to many other steps in response to the pandemic.
We invite you to visit our website to learn more about these efforts, follow our updates that we are posting on a regular basis, and access helpful resources to keep you and your loved ones safe. If you have any questions, please contact us.