Seems like every day we are hearing something new about the Coronavirus or Covid-19. The only consistent message is that major steps are being taken during the illness' outbreak to inform and protect older Americans and their families.
We at AARP Texas want to make sure you have the most accurate information so we are going to thought leaders to offer us information and tips to keep us healthy and safe.
In this week’s AARP Prepare to Care podcast, Dr. Janeana White, the Clinical Director for the Division of Clinical Control and Prevention with the Harris County Public Health Office, spoke about this virus.
Listen to our AARP Podcast: 50+ and our health amid Covid-19
She said practicing good hygiene like washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes are important to our good health. She said these simple tasks and social distancing are part of the solution to staying healthy.
“We must all do our part to protect people who could have serious illness if they contract Covid-19 and those who either care for them or live with them,” said Dr. White. “There are few things that caregivers and care recipients can do to protect themselves—staying informed with the most up-to-date information on Covid-19.”
Dr. White said this situation is changing rapidly, which is why it’s important to get information from credible sources such as Harris County Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and outlets like the AARP Prepare to Care podcast. She said it is all about having a plan.
“We strongly encourage people to have a plan, which is what this program, Prepare to Care, is all about … navigating how to care for loved ones,” said Dr.White. “Make sure there are enough household items and groceries to prepare for being in the home for some time. You should have enough over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms.”
Dr. White said people should work with their doctor to get extra necessary medications that the care recipient needs. If you aren’t able to do this, consider using mail order for medications. She said caregiving plans are especially important if you are a member of a high-risk group or you care for someone with underlying health conditions.
“I mention these because often when caring for older loved ones, it’s a coordinated effort. So in light of this situation, there may be a need for alternative plans if a caregiver is also at a higher risk or becomes ill. Consider having 2 to 3 additional caregivers,” said Dr. White. “You need to know who will make runs to the grocery store or to pick up medication. If you have children at home, who will care for them if they get sick? Or if you happen to get sick who will take care of them?”
You should prepare your home too said, Dr. White. Those preps could include having an area/bedroom to isolate a sick person, preferably with access to a separate bathroom and a room for coming and going.
“If possible, designate an area in your home where people entering from outside, can remove clothing and shoes. Place them in a disposable bag to separate them from your regular laundry,” said White. “Don’t forget to clean and disinfect surfaces, especially those we frequently touch, such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes, countertops, electronic devices, handrails, toilet handles, etc.”
Dr. White said we can clean using regular soap and water if we don’t have disinfectants.
“Anytime you are cleaning or coming in to contact with potentially contaminated items, you should wear gloves. If you have reusable gloves, designate a pair for the bathroom, kitchen, laundry, etc.,” said Dr. White. “Also, wash your hands immediately afterward.”
For more information on cleaning and disinfecting your home, including laundry, you can visit hcphtx.org. There is extensive information under the community resources section. As for caregivers? Dr. White said caregivers should take care of themselves so that they’re healthy to take care of others.
“You ( as caregiver) may be balancing caring for aging parents while also trying to take care of your family. You must remember to rely on your support system,” said Dr. White. “You should reach out to family, friends, and neighbors for help. If you don’t have a support system, find resources such as AARP.”
Dr. White said caregivers should not forget to take care of their mental health. If you are feeling anxious, sad, overwhelm, angry you should reach out to a mental health provider or call the Harris Center 713.970.7000 she said. She added that the Harris County Area on Aging is an excellent resource too and their number is 832.393.4301.
“They (Harris County Area Agency on Aging) offers direct support services for seniors and their caregivers,” said Dr. White. “If you are in other parts of the state you can call 211 to get help and learn about resources in your area.”
Don’t forget to stay in touch with your older family members or friends said, Dr. White. She added that during this time we should be reaching out to them more often than you might in a normal situation. Ask for help if need be.
“Ask others to call and check-in on your older family members. Families and community groups can also develop a phone contact list and have members call each other,” said White. “If they live with you, come up with non-contact ways to express love and affection—secret hand signals and code words. You can also try to keep them active, with brain activities, in-home exercises such as tai chi or other activities easy for persons with limited mobility.”
To find out the latest information on the spread or treatment of Coronavirus also known as COVID-19, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/.AARP also has you covered with coronavirus resources. You can get that info at www.aarp.org/coronavirus.
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