Coronavirus Known As COVID-19: Tips For You And Your Love Ones
Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on March 23, 2020
Coronavirus Known As COVID-19: Tips For You And Your Loved Ones
The novel (new) form of coronavirus known as COVID-19 has become an indefinite pandemic, with older adults and people with compromised immune systems being the most vulnerable. Some of the biggest and deadliest outbreaks in the United States have occurred in senior living facilities. As a result, coronavirus prevention measures are currently in place in assisted living facilities, adult family homes, residential care homes, nursing homes, skilled nursing rehabilitation centers, independent living facilities, and home care. The Centers for Disease Control provide live updates on the coronavirus’ spread.
The coronavirus spreads through person to person contact, entering respiratory systems when an infected person within six feet coughs or sneezes; touching your face after touching infected surfaces can also spread it. It causes flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, trouble breathing, and shortness of breath. Extreme cases can result in pneumonia, kidney failure, and acute respiratory syndrome, all of which can be fatal. However, much of the virus’ spread results from people who carry it without showing symptoms for up to 14 days, making it more important than ever to practice good hygiene.
If you or loved ones reside in senior living facilities, here are the preventive measures you will need to protect yourself, residents, and staff from coronavirus.
Preventing Coronavirus Infection
The coronavirus outbreak requires many of the same prevention techniques as the flu, frequently washing your hands is one of the most important. The World Health Organization’s illustrated handwashing guidelines advise washing your hands with soap for at least twenty seconds. This step is necessary for when you eat, use the bathroom, or interact with people (especially those showing symptoms) during an epidemic. When soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol will suffice. Most other hand sanitizers are antibacterial, meaning they will not affect the virus; soap is most effective because it breaks down the lipid (fat) layer surrounding the coronavirus, killing it.
Whether you are a resident or staff, everyone in senior living facilities should take particular care about infected surfaces. You should avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes in case you may have touched infected surfaces. Even if you do not show symptoms of the coronavirus, coughing and sneezing into your upper sleeve or a disposable tissue will ensure your hands and surfaces stay clean. Due to stay-at-home orders widely enforced around the country, most facilities now implement social distancing, bans on all gatherings, and regular screenings. Residents are expected to stay in their living quarters or otherwise maintain a distance of at least six feet from others. Staff undertakes the same steps, staying home if they become sick and demonstrating training such as regular sanitization of surfaces.
The above steps are crucial for protecting residents and staff before an outbreak occurs in a senior living facility, but residents’ loved ones should also take the following precautions during the crisis.
Controlling the Spread of Coronavirus
Care centers now bar visitors due to the risk of disease spread, only making exceptions for patients expected to die soon. However, loved ones can and should stay in contact to determine if the facility adheres to the above health practices and if residents are in good health. It is important to know if residents are properly eating and hydrating, to determine how they would fare in the facility’s care if they contracted the virus. These steps are crucial for many home caregivers who need to understand their loved ones’ conditions and give care providers advice, from afar. Families should also stay in touch by phone, email, and/or video chat to alleviate the mental and emotional strain of isolation.
Moving residents out of the facility should only be a last resort for when the facility does not have an adequate response plan. Long-term care facilities, in particular, provide assistance that their residents cannot go without, so moving is often not a viable option. Residents’ loved ones who wish to move them should form a plan to provide better care than they would receive at their original locations, especially since germs are more prevalent outside facilities. Any care plan should account for individuals’ needs, as it is more important than ever to keep seniors in the best possible health.
Even as visitation is disallowed, residents’ loved ones can communicate with them and facilities to determine residents’ needs.
Communicating with Senior Living Facilities
When monitoring residents, visitors can talk to staff by email or phone. Reminding staff to practice good hygiene and asking about their plans may influence their actions and help you understand if they are prepared for outbreaks. Many facilities will post updates to their websites or email lists, which can also give an indication of their condition and safety measures. Now is the time to research the facility’s health ratings, as well. Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool species in which nursing homes are Medicare- and Medicaid-Certified. With it, you can learn about facilities’ staffing, health inspection ratings, and more. Understaffing and a lack of handwashing are common problems among low-rated facilities.
There are certain steps you can rely on highly-rated facilities to take in the event of an outbreak. Staff will wear face masks, gowns, and gloves to prevent transmission from ill patients to anyone else. Residents with signs of sickness will be quarantined in single rooms, where staff set up testing or treatment. Residents will have their meals delivered as dining halls close. There is no antiviral treatment available for COVID-19, so most treatment is directed toward alleviating symptoms –including support for vital organs in severe cases. Symptoms usually take 5-6 days to manifest, and people with mild symptoms usually recover within days, so residents would only require long periods of care if they have severe symptoms.
The coronavirus is an issue for all older adults, senior living communities being especially vulnerable due to residents’ close quarters. However, health organizations’ thorough coverage of this outbreak allows us to better understand not only how to avoid coronavirus, but many other diseases that breed in senior communities as well. As facilities do their part to protect residents inside, residents’ loved ones outside can protect them and each other by staying home and flattening the curve.
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