The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued detailed advice for older Americans who are at higher risk for more serious symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. People of all ages who have severe, chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes likewise are at higher risk.
Here are key tips for older adults and their caregivers for preparing for a coronavirus outbreak in your community, adapted from the CDC's checklist for older adults:
Know the symptoms
• If you develop COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough and trouble breathing, call your doctor first.
• Some doctors offer telephone and “telehealth” visits to avoid the potential of spreading the virus to other patients and health care workers in the office.
• Not everyone who contracts the virus needs to be hospitalized. You may be able to recover at home. Follow your doctor's orders and CDC guidance on how to take care of yourself at home.
• Have a COVID-19 plan for yourself. Draw up one for your loved ones and review it.
• Have a list of your daily medications and time of day you take them. That way a caregiver will be able to help you if you get sick.
• Obtain at least a 30-day supply of your prescription drugs.
• Stock up on tissues and over-the-counter medicines to treat fever, cough and other symptoms should they arise.
• Have enough groceries and household items to be comfortable staying home for a few weeks. Make sure you have enough supplies.
• Draw up an emergency contact list.
• If you have a caregiver, make a backup plan for care in case he or she falls sick.
• If you are a caretaker, monitor your charge's food, supplies and medical needs such as oxygen, dialysis and wound care. And have a backup plan.
Stay at home, have a buddy
• Avoid sick people and crowds.
• Postpone travel, including airplane trips, and avoid cruise ships.
• Pay attention to the local news and follow the advice of local health officials.
• You might need to ask friends, family, neighbors or community health workers for help, especially if you become sick.
• Seek out a “buddy” who will check on you, help you prepare and stock up on supplies, and help care for you if needed.
Practice Healthy Habits
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow, then wash your hands.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
• If you don't have soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Clean — and then disinfect — surfaces and things you touch often. These include tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, handrails, countertops, remote controls, shared electronic equipment, shared exercise equipment, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.
• Here are instructions to clean and disinfect your home if someone is sick.
• Call 911 immediately if you are sick and your symptoms worsen.
• Worsening symptoms include, but are not limited to, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; bluish lips or face.
• If you are a caregiver, also pay attention if your charge shows new confusion.