Protecting Seniors Against COVID-19

March 17, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Manisha Santosh Parulekar, M.D. contributes to topics such as Sleep Disorders, Dementia.

Updated: 4/15/2020

COVID-19 can affect people of all ages. But, it’s older adults and those with serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, who are most vulnerable.

“People older than 60 have the highest risk of developing severe complications related to COVID-19 because our immune systems weaken as we age,” warns Manisha Parulekar, M.D, the chief of Geriatrics at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Older adults are also more likely to have chronic health conditions that make it more difficult to recover.”

How can seniors reduce their risk?

“One of the most important things seniors can do is take this seriously,” says Dr. Parulekar. “I am not saying you have to go to extremes, cut off all human contact and stock up for months and months of quarantine, but be smart and take the recommended precautions.”

Those precautions are as follows:

  • Follow social distancing guidelines and stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  • If soap and water aren’t available and your hands are not visibly dirty, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. However, if your hands are visibly dirty, always wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Use mask when you are going outside.
  • Ensure you are up-to-date on all of your vaccines to avoid any other illnesses.

Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings like stores or offices with little air circulation if there are people nearby who are sick. You should avoid these settings as much as possible.

COVID-19 Close to Home

Although these precautions are recommended for everyone, they are especially important in areas where large numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases have appeared. Take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people to further reduce your risk of being exposed to this new virus.

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social or commercial networks.
  • Contact your health care provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand.
  • Ensure that if you live alone you have a loved one or someone nearby check on you regularly.

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