Taking care of the elderly during COVID-19
While life seems to be phasing in to a new normal, there is still a very vulnerable population that we need to remain informed about and vigilent in protecting.
Seniors continue to face a high risk of serious illness during the post COVID-19 phasing in of business and services . If you are taking care of an elderly relative you need to be aware.
Health Canada says the COVID-19 virus increases the risk of more serious illness for Canadians who:
- Are aged 65 and over
- Have compromised immune systems, or
- Have underlying medical conditions
Many seniors have some or all of these. Here are some ways we can help look after them and keep them safe.
First order of business: make sure that as a caregiver, you are also taking care of yourself. Self-care is very important for family caregivers, look at online support groups for help finding solutions to common challenges caregivers may be facing right now. In addition to self-care, you can also:
Continue to practice good hygeine protocols: washing of hands frequently, wearing a mask to protect the elderly, cleaning/disinfecting common "touch" surfaces regularly.
Monitor the situation
It is important to monitor the current situation before deciding to visit an elderly relative in person. The World Health Organization recommends exchanging '1 metre greetings" such as a wave. Other health professionals suggest appointing ONE person in your family to visit an older relative. This reduces in person interactions.
Some governments, such as the Government of Quebec have said those over 70 should stay home as much as possible. They also have banned non-essential visitors in seniors’ residences and long-term care facilities.
Don’t visit if you are sick or have been in close contact with someone who is sick.
Stock up on medications (reasonably)
The Canadian Pharmacist Association recommends that everyone going to the pharmacy to pick up medications should be screened over the phone before arriving. For seniors, going during off-peak hours may be beneficial as there may be fewer people around.
Some pharmacies and grocery stores have started seniors only shopping hours. These are hours when the stores are only open to seniors before being open to the general public. You may consider having a healthy member of the family go to pick up medication or use our pharmacies free delivery service.
Stock up on groceries
Similar to medications, having someone drop off groceries for elderly relatives may be beneficial. Having some extra food on hand might also be a good idea.
If seniors are going shopping, it may be best to go at off peak hours. Avoiding crowds, avoiding touching their face, and washing hands when returning home are all recommended steps to take.
If you are looking after an elderly relative, it may be helpful to have some additional food set aside for them at your house too just in case.
Make a back up plan in case you get sick
If you currently care for a senior, it might be beneficial to make a back up plan in case you have to self-isolate. This includes:
- Documenting the person’s care needs
- Ensuring there is food at the person’s home to last for several days
- Enlisting people who can step in to help in your absence.
Call often to check in
When in-person visits are impractical or risky, a phone or video call might be a great alternative way to check in. A pre-arranged call at the same time each day can also be a used as a safety check. If you don’t get an answer, you will then be able to alert someone nearby to check and make sure nothing is wrong.
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