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  • Writer's pictureNathalia Zambakari

COVID-19 and Seniors: Staying Safe, Staying Connected

Updated: May 16, 2023

At Desert Haven Home Care and Apollo Residential Assisted Living, we have felt the impacts of COVID-19 among members of our residential community. We have changed the way we provide professional care and services, taking every precaution against the virus, following state and federal guidelines, and making certain our residents are as protected against infection as possible; our priority is their safety and comfort in these unprecedented times.


With this in mind, we share below some general information about COVID-19 and the precautions that can be taken against coronavirus as we work together to eradicate this deadly infectious disease.

black women on call smiling - COVID-19 and Seniors: Staying Safe, Staying Connected

COVID-19: What it is

According to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. COVID-19 case total is more than 30 million, and deaths have surpassed 550,000 (as of March 20, 2021). At the same time, more than 22 million U.S. residents have “recovered,” – twice testing negative for COVID-19 over a span of 10 to 14 days. And while these numbers are cause for concern, there are indications better days lie ahead. On March 15, The New York Times reported: “Case numbers across the country are dropping steadily as the pace of vaccination continues to increase. More than 20 percent of people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. States continue to expand their lists of people eligible to get a shot. Much of the country continues to do quite well.


COVID-19 has had a particularly negative impact on older adults, notably those with medical conditions, meaning this aging population requires additional assistance. Seniors suffering from chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease need special care; their immune system may be compromised. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths occur in people aged 65 and over, and poses the greatest risk of serious illness to people aged 85 and older.


Staying at home, staying connected


Many seniors are taking precautions against the virus, staying at home and socially isolating themselves. And, while these precautions are important, they are not without their own consequences, including the risk of social alienation and loneliness, which can lead to anxiety, depression and other health issues.


There are a variety of programs available to assist seniors in remaining healthy and socially active during the pandemic. In fact, the International Council on Active Aging has developed 10 ways to stay connected during this pandemic. Here are a handful:


  • Pick up the phone and call someone. Catch up with family and friends; your call might make someone else’s day as well as your own.

  • Exercise with a friend/family member at a safe distance. If you live alone, slip on your walking shoes, then call a friend or family member to accompany you for a “physically distanced” walk and chat.

  • Hang out in your front yard and interact with neighbors. Talk to postal workers as they deliver mail, or chat with those walking along the sidewalk. Be a friendly, encouraging presence in the neighborhood.

  • Volunteer with community support groups for outreach calls, either over the phone or safely in person, to support others who are not socially connected.

  • If you’re internet-wired, invite people to join an interactive online discussion group or book club. Or watch live-streaming programming of interest that includes live chat opportunities. Supporters value real-time interactions with others in their communities of interest.


COVID-19: generational impacts


COVID-19 is more likely to cause serious problems in our senior-age population. It may also be difficult to protect the elderly from becoming infected with the virus since they may not be completely self-sufficient. For example, a mother may get the assistance of her adult daughter to help her shop for groceries or take a shower. Others with greater independence are not as likely to have in their homes the high volume of people providing care and services, or not as often. One thing is certain – once infected, you, your loved ones and those who may be caring for you will be impacted.


It is important to know the precautionary measures that can be taken against the viral disease.


COVID-19 caregiving challenges


Included in COVID-19 precautionary measures is social distancing – keeping separation between you and another, not participating in large-group activities, keeping yourself as isolated as possible. If you have people who assist you – taking you on errands, shopping at stores for you, visiting you after they have visited others, you need to be aware of the ramifications of such contact. These caregivers, family and friends must be as “COVID careful” as you – you must do all you can to keep contact at a minimum, reducing the chance of infection.


For purposes that have ensured a safer environment within senior communities, managers and directors have placed restrictions – in accordance with state and federal guidelines – on visits from friends and family, have curtailed public functions within the communities and changed schedules and operations to maintain the safest possible environment. The challenges presented to caregivers in such circumstances are many.


University Health Services at the University of California Berkeley advises caregivers and family members to focus on making elders feel in control of the precautions they are being told to take so they feel involved rather than punished by the new rules. Some of the ideas shared on the UHS site include:


  • Talk with those receiving your care and assistance about public health crises they have lived through in the past including polio, tuberculosis, SARS or H1N1 flu – this allows them to share information and their own memories of trying times.

  • Provide them with regular updates or let them know you’ll contact them again – this will give them a sense of a future, and help them not feel abandoned.

  • Says one caregiver: “Older people should not be left to sit at home on their own. It’s important that people stay engaged and active.” Stay away if you’re ill, but “carry on visiting older people if you are well.”

  • Create an emergency plan. If you are worried about an elder because you may not be able to visit with them, try to have a contingency plan in place. Medications, important contact numbers, and who can step in when the main caregiver is not well, are examples of information that would be helpful to have.

  • Encourage them to stay active. If those receiving your care and attention are confined at home because they’re self-isolating, it’s paramount they stay active. “Even just standing up 10 times an hour is good exercise.” Elders can be helped to feel more positive if they engage with the world and stay active.


Protecting seniors from COVID-19


Some of the CDC’s recommended COVID-19 precautionary steps for senior-aged people include:

  • Wear a mask, when you interact with others.

  • Limit your in-person interactions with other people as much as possible, particularly when indoors.

  • Keep space between yourself and others (stay 6 feet away, which is about 2 arm lengths).

  • Wash your hands often. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Then wash your hands.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and things you touch often.


Let’s do this!


We know that we are in this together. As our Desert Haven Home Care and Apollo Residential Assisted Living centers work with industry and medical leaders on behalf of our valued residents, we have developed and introduced procedures designed to maintain a clean and germ-free environment, and we offer a COVID-19 rapid test for residents and our professional team. Our focus on the safety, good health and comfort of our residents keeps us all safe.



About the Authors


Dr. Christopher Zambakari, BS, MBA, MIS, LP.D.


Dr. Zambakari is the owner and operator of Desert Haven Home Care in Phoenix and Apollo Assisted Living in Glendale. He provides direction and oversight to ensure Care Facilities provide the highest levels of customized care, administered by respectful licensed medical and caregiving professionals.



Nathalia Zambakari, Board Certified AGACNP-BC


Nathalia is a board-certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and a licensed medical professional responsible for short-term care patients suffering from severe conditions. As part of our care team, Nathalia reviews the medical records of incoming residents, helping us to manage patient regimens and performing caregiver education to assure that we are providing the best care possible for our residents.



Disclaimer


The material presented on this blog does not constitute medical advice. We encourage you to consult your primary care physician. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice. If you or your loved one is considering the benefits of quality assisted living, please contact us at 602-670-9326, or email us at info@deserthavenaz.com.


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