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April 08, 2020

6 Frequently Asked Questions About Older Adults and COVID-19

Who Should Be Tested?

Testing is most appropriate for people who develop symptoms of COVID-19, says Dr. Jay Butler deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC. However, you may find that your state has a shortage of tests depending on where you live. In Ohio for example, testing is reserved for the sickest patients who are being treated in a hospital. This is because there are not enough tests to screen everyone who shows symptoms and the department of health wants to protect the frontline healthcare workers caring for these patients. If you feel you qualify for a test or show symptoms of COVID-19, speak with your doctor and keep up to date with the information provided by your state and local health authorities. 

There are drive-thru testing facilities available in many states, however, you need a doctor’s order for the test. 

Can I still see my grandkids?

While that decision is personal, Dr. Butler says you may want to connect with your grandchildren via video chat, text message or phone call during this time. Children can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, and Dr. Butler notes, it seems to be possible to spread the virus before showing symptoms as well. This information — connecting virtually — is especially recommended the older you are. 

What can I do if a friend or family member is in a nursing facility?

Restrictions have been placed on nursing facilities barring visitors, which might leave you wondering how you can keep in touch with any friends or family members who are residents. Lance Robertson, assistant secretary for aging, administration and community living at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, recommends a few things: 

  • First, make sure the facility has your updated contact information. 
  • Read any information the facility provides you about conducting virtual visits
  • If you need staff assistance with communication, consider setting up a routine date and time.
  • Consider sending cards and notes to residents, your loved ones and staff

Help prevent boredom and isolation for both you and your family member or friend by playing trivia on the phone or watching a show together.  

Do vaccines like the flu and pneumococcal vaccine help against COVID-19?

It’s a good idea to get your flu vaccine during flu season, but the flu shot will not provide any protection against COVID-19. The same holds true for the pneumococcal vaccine. Dr. Butler notes that the pneumococcal vaccine may be helpful to those who develop a bacterial pneumonia infection as a result of COVID-19, but the vaccine does not protect against COVID-19 itself. 

How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces?

Scientists are learning about the coronavirus, including how long the virus can live on various surfaces. In one study, they found it can survive up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel surfaces. On cardboard, it appears to live less than 24 hours. It’s important to note, however, that the study didn’t mimic real-life conditions, so the viruses on these surfaces weren’t exposed to UV light or heat, which are both known to help kill the virus.

How should I disinfect my home?

The CDC recommends frequently disinfecting high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones or remote controls. To disinfect surfaces, use a diluted household bleach solution or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. Create a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons of bleach with a gallon of water. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims

are expected to be effective against COVID-19. For porous surfaces, use a cleaner indicated for these surfaces. For linens, the CDC recommends washing on the warmest setting. The organization also recommends wearing disposable gloves during cleaning.  

I need help getting food, what can I do?

If you need assistance getting food, you can utilize grocery or meal delivery services or contact your local area agency on aging for meal delivery services. These services are still available. Call 1800-677-1116 or visit the Elder Care Locator for assistance. If you're a Kendal at Home member, contact your care coordinator.

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