Protecting Older Adults from COVID-19

It’s natural to feel concerned about an older friend or family member when many people are getting COVID-19. Whether you live near your friend or relative or far away, you may need to act promptly to help your loved one avoid getting sick or minimize the potential risks.


If your friend or family member develops symptoms

Make sure that your friend or relative contacts her health care provider right away if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms, which include the following:

  • fever
  • headache
  • dry cough
  • body aches
  • breathing problems

If your older relative has a chronic illness, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or asthma, they should seek medical attention at the onset of symptoms so the doctor can determine what course of treatment is appropriate.

If you’re a long-distance caregiver and won’t be able to get your loved one to an emergency room yourself, keep the local police dispatch phone number on hand so that you can call for help if they have these symptoms. You might also research what the protocol is for getting tested for COVID-19 in your friend’ or family member’s area.


If your friend or family member lives in a long-term care facility

Older adults might have a higher risk of catching COVID-19 if they live in long-term care facility, where the virus can spread quickly. Here are a few questions you might ask the staff at your older friend or relative’s long-term care facility.

  • What protocols do you have in place if a resident tests positive for COVID-19?
  • Are you ensuring that your staff gets tested for COVID-19?What protocols do you have in place if someone who works at the facility, such as a cleaner, cook, or nurse, tests positive for COVID-19?
  • Do you screen visitors that are ill, especially children, to keep exposure to COVID-19 limited?
  • Have you developed a written plan for dealing with COVID-19 that you can share with me?Who is your pandemic-flu response coordinator for the facility and how can I contact them? (This could include limiting social activities, as well as feeding patients in their rooms instead of in the dining hall.)
  • What is your plan for communicating with families, visitors, and others if COVID-19 is found at the facility?
  • Is there a provision for health care providers to visit the home to diagnose and treat residents without having to take them to an outside medical office(and potentially expose them to COVID-19 and other illnesses)? If not, is there accessible transportation to take residents to health care provider visits?
  • Talk with the director at the facility if you have questions about how it would cope with a flu outbreak.

Although you cannot see your older loved one or friend in person, it is important to still be in touch with them. Be creative about it. If they are able, have a virtual meeting through one of the video apps, like Zoom, or do a FaceTime Call, or a traditional call. Send emails or write a letter and/or have the children draw pictures for their loved ones and mail it to them.


Since long-term care facilities have halted visitors at this time, write some letters or draw some pictures and send them to your local nursing home. This can help the older population not feel so alone during this time and it can also help bring a sense of being able to help.


If you have other questions about helping your older friend or family member stay healthy, the Members’ Assistance Program has helpful resources.


*The information in this article is provided by Shepell, the provider of CDSPI’s Members’ Assistance Program (MAP). MAP services and resources are offered through Shepell, Canada’s largest provider of Employee and Family Assistance Programs.

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