COVID-19 Isolating Nursing Home Residents

Amidst widespread school, sports and entertainment shutdowns and travel bans around the world, we mustn’t forget the elderly are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Nursing homes are increasingly putting residents under lock-down protocols, creating what the New York Times describes as “Islands of Isolation”. 

In Washington State, 18 residents in a single nursing home died, and across the country, families are struggling to decide if they should move their loved-ones home.  Being socially isolated, in fear and feeling trapped and without hope is no way for anyone to live.  But assisted-living facilities must curtail visitors to help stem the spread of Coronavirus; the highest risk for serious illness and death is among people over the age of 80. 

The virus can survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, according to the World Health Organization but the most common way infection is spread is through droplets from a cough or sneeze.   Although some people with the virus may not have any symptoms and can still spread the virus, people are most contagious when they have symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

How can families help elderly loved-ones?  

  • Creating panic about the virus can actually lower your resistance.  Research has found that stress can impact the immune system making it harder for the body to fight off infection and recover from illness.  Take a deep breath and suggest a way to unplug. 
  • Encourage a healthy diet and sleep routine.  Turn off screens before bed and take a break from the news. 
  • Vitamin D may help boost immune health.  Talk with your doctor about dosage. 
  • Limit alcohol; although COVID-19 may seem like a good reason to imbibe, alcohol can impair the immune system. 
  • Avoid taking unproven supplements.  Focus on eating well, getting some exercise and practicing good hygiene.
  • Clean all high-touch household surfaces daily; counters, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards and toilets.
  • Keep a list of all medications your loved one is taking and make sure they have extra on hand.
  • Make sure seniors have a good stock of medical supplies and non-perishable foods.
  • Ask nursing facilities about the protocol for an outbreak, monitor the situation and ask questions about the health of other residents. 
  • Use the hand sanitizers that are typically found at the entrances to hospitals and nursing homes as you enter and again as you leave.

Learn more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among high-risk populations by following this link to the CDC website.