The coronavirus has claimed thousands of lives in only a few short months. The often-fatal effects of the virus are seen most prominently in the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. Special precautions must be followed when it comes to taking care of an elderly family member.

As a caregiver, you must take care of yourself to be in a position to take care of others. Focus first on maintaining and improving your health! Anyone taking care of an elderly family member needs to manage the risk of exposure to the virus by other caregivers, service company employees, other family members, and friends. This means taking the necessary steps to establish rules of engagement to protect your elderly family member from catching COVID-19.

The hygiene protocol at the residence of your elderly family member must be strictly adhered to by all that enter the residence. Wash your hands regularly and wear a mask! Since an older adult’s immunity may be less resistant to infection, forgetting to wash can have serious consequences. Caretakers should wear sanitary gloves, particularly when handling any medical equipment or medication containers. Food preparation requires hand washing and the disinfecting of any packaging on food before placement on a preparation surface. Since COVID can survive on plastic, it is easy to cross-contaminate. Gloves are to be used once and plastic packaging delivered to recycling or sanitized and clean in a high-temperature dishwasher cycle.

Remember to focus on your health! Make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Caretakers need to maintain social distancing and handwashing outside of the residence as well. Lifestyle choices matter when you are a caregiver. Think twice about how your activities may result in contact with the virus. In addition to frequent handwashing, clean areas that are touched most often. These include countertops, doorknobs, faucets, and railings. Ambulatory-assistance aids, like walkers or wheelchairs, also need to be wiped down as well. While disinfectant wipes or cleaners are best, it’s still possible to kill COVID with hot, soapy water.

Health professionals insist that it is vital to practice social distance as much as possible. Even if caretakers are healthy, it is always better to take precautions. However, social distancing is not the same as isolation. Social distancing means keeping enough space between elders and caretakers when possible to avoid possible contamination. Caregivers must balance protecting a loved one form the virus against the risks of adverse emotional and psychological complications attributable to isolation. Making sure that your loved one gets out into the world and experiences the great outdoors is imperative. A walk, a wheelchair ride, or a drive in the car will contribute to a better sense of well being!

Of course, avoid high-risk travel outside the home. Consider a teleconference or phone visit to maintain friendships, stay in touch with family members, and as an alternative to in-person doctor appointments to avoid outside world virus risks. Grocery delivery, instead of going to the market and watching religious services online instead of attending in person, should be embraced as the best option to protect health. Make smart choices and stay healthy!

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