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Friday April 10, 2020

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Protect Your Parents from Coronavirus

I am concerned about my 80-year-old mother who is at high risk for coronavirus. She lives on her own about 100 miles from me, and I have been keeping close tabs on her since this whole pandemic started. What tips can you offer long-distance family members?

Because the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions are the most vulnerable to the new coronavirus, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of social distancing and staying home is critically important.

Here are some additional tips and recommendations from the CDC and public health specialists that can help keep your elderly mother safe and healthy while she is hunkering down at home until the pandemic passes.

Know and follow CDC recommendations: Make sure you and your mom know and practice the CDC recommendations for older adults and those with compromising health conditions. You are probably already familiar with some of their guidelines, like washing your hands and avoiding touching your face, but there are many other recommendations and they are constantly changing. For the complete list visit Coronavirus.gov, then click on "Older Adults & Medical Conditions."

Have supplies on hand: Start by contacting healthcare providers to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand for a prolonged period of time. If extra medications are not approved, consider using a mail-order service for medications to avoid going into a pharmacy. Also, be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms.

She should also have enough groceries and household items to be able to stay at home for an extended period of time. If she needs to restock supplies, there are online grocery delivery options such as Amazon Fresh, Instacart, Peapod, Target and Walmart. A growing number of stores including Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Dollar General and many others are offering early dedicated shopping times to seniors to reduce their risk of being exposed to the virus.

There are also home delivery meal programs that can help the home-bound. See MealsOnWheelsAmerica.org to locate one in your mom's area. You can also check out companies that deliver nutritious pre-cooked meals that can be heated up in the microwave.

Use technology: For many seniors, social distancing can also lead to isolation and loneliness, a common problem among older adults. If your mom has a computer, tablet or smartphone, she can stay connected to friends and relatives via video calls through Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. These are safe alternatives to in-person visits.

If your mom is not familiar or comfortable with mainstream technology, there are other solutions like the GrandPad (GrandPad.net), which is a simplified 4G tablet designed for seniors 75 and older that allows one-touch video calls, email and much more.

For your peace of mind, there are also check-in services like Snug (SnugSafe.com) that send free daily check-ins to your mom's phone to confirm she is OK. These services will let you know if she does not respond.

Skip nonessential doctor's appointments: Most public health experts are also recommending that at-risk individuals cancel nonessential doctor's appointments. If your mom has an appointment that she feels should not be put off, consider a telemedicine session, which is now covered by Medicare, as an option.

Talk to caregivers: If your mom uses a home health or home care service, a number of different aides may be coming through her door.

Be sure you talk to the agency she uses or her aides about hygiene. They should all be reminded to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. Any equipment they bring into your mom's home should be wiped down with disinfectant.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published April 3, 2020
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