How to keep vulnerable family members safe during COVID-19
Who is the most vulnerable?
- People older than 65 years
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People who have serious heart conditions
- People who are immunocompromised
- Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
- People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
- People with diabetes
- People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- People with liver disease
Steps to reduce the risk of a vulnerable person getting sick
- Stay home if possible.
- Strict infection prevention measures: Wash your hands often.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Keep space between yourself and others
- Avoid close contact with people, especially those who are sick, even inside your home. If possible, maintain 2m between household members.
- Spend as little time as possible in shared rooms, for example, the kitchen and sitting areas. Spend more time sitting outside in fresh air/ areas with high ventilation.
- Put distance between yourself and other people outside of your home.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus.
- Do not gather in groups.
- Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.
- Open windows to let fresh air into shared spaces
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched services.
- This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Then, use a household disinfectant.
- Either alcohol-based sanitiser (70%) or sodium hypochlorite (for example Jik) mixed to 1:1000 ppm is acceptable for disinfection.
- Clean cutlery, dishes and pans thoroughly. Do not share cutlery during meal times, and wash crockery and cutlery thoroughly in hot water with detergent after use.
- Clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces you have touched.
- Use separate towels, including hand towels and tea towels.
- Call your healthcare professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 and your underlying condition or if you are sick.
Stay healthy and reduce stress
Stay healthy during the winter months. Keep warm, and avoid contact with others who may have other colds and flu. Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress.
Ways to cope with stress
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
- Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals; if needed, ensure vitamin supplements to boost immunity.
- Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind.
- Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others.
Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling, check-in with loved ones: schedule video calls with family and friends to stay in touch.
Help keep your loved ones safe
- Know what medications your loved one is taking.
- Try to help them have a 4-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, and see if you can help them have extra on hand.
- Monitor other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan.
- Stock up on non-perishable food (canned foods, dried beans, pasta) to have on hand in your home to minimise trips to stores.
Develop a care plan
A care plan summarises your health conditions, medications, healthcare providers, emergency contacts, and end-of-life care options (for example, advance directives). Complete your care plan in consultation with your doctor, and if needed, with help from a family member or home nurse aide.
A care plan can have benefits beyond the current pandemic. You can update your care plan every year, or any time you have a change in your health or medications. Care plans can help reduce emergency room visits and hospitalisations, and improve overall medical management for people with a chronic health condition, resulting in a better quality of life.
3. Healthcare University of Utah – https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2020/03/coronavirus-high-risk-groups.php
4. Aspira Continuing Education: https://aspirace.com/mental-health-stress-and-coping-during-covid-19/