COVID-19 Precautions for Older Adults

How to protect yourself if your health is already compromised.

Contact your healthcare provider to ask about obtaining extra prescription medications in case of an outbreak of COVID-19 in your local community.

© Kentannenbaum |

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is an evolving public health issue, and public health officials are working diligently to understand and quickly communicate relevant information. Unfortunately, misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 is running wild. What should you really be doing and not doing? Who do you listen to?  How often should you even be listening?

One undisputed fact about the coronavirus is this: Older adults are at the highest risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19. The majority of fatalities worldwide from COVID-19 has been among those age 60 and over. There are many actions you can take help you reduce your risk of infection. Heeding information from credible sources is the best course of action.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that generally cause upper respiratory infections. There are many coronaviruses, which are ubiquitous and mostly found in animals, but some can and do jump into humans (SARS and MERS were coronaviruses). Hand-washing and social distancing can help stop the spread. For more context about COVID-19 and information about how social distancing worked in St. Louis compared to Philadelphia during the 1918 flu pandemic, watch this video from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health .

Geriatrician Jonathan Wanagat, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, UCLA Division of Geriatrics and Editor-in-Chief of UCLA Healthy Years recommends that older adults follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.  “They should also follow the guidance of their local public health department, which is aware of their local risks,”  he says.

Advice from the CDC

Older people and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, need to take actions to reduce the risk of getting sick. These are among the CDC recommendations, find more information on this CDC webpage for higher risk individuals.

  • Stock up on supplies.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

Stock up on supplies, but there is no need to hoard. Supply trucks are constantly replenishing store shelves. Contact your healthcare provider to ask about obtaining extra medications in case of an outbreak of COVID-19 in your local community. An outbreak is when there are many cases in your surrounding neighborhood. Consider mail-order for your medications.

Most people are able to recover from COVID-19 at home but have household items and groceries on-hand to prepare for a possible extended at-home stay. Watch for these disease symptoms and emergency warning signs:

  • Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
  • If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately.In adults, emergency warning signs include:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

If an outbreak has already hit your local area, consider ways of getting food brought to you through family, social, or commercial store delivery networks. Determine who can care for you if you caregiver gets sick.

Stay aware of what’s happening in your local area by listening to local news outlets. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are not credible sources and may provide misleading and false information. Instead visit websites of the CDC, local health departments and major medical centers. Click here to view UCLA’s COVID-19 dedicated webpage for public health information.

The situation is constantly changing, and it can be tempting to listen to newscasts all day long. Information overload can add to the confusion as well as lead to fatigue, anxiety, and fear.  It’s important to be informed, but not to panic. This is not the first nor the last time a pandemic will occur. Much has been learned from the past and can serve us wisely during this situation as it continues to unfold. If you feel overwhelmed, consider limiting your news intake to two or three times a day.  To reduce social isolation, stay in touch by calling a friend or family member.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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JoAnn Milivojevic

JoAnn Milivojevic became the executive editor of UCLA Health’s Healthy Years in 2015 and has written numerous articles featuring some of the most preeminent and passionate scientists, researchers, physicians, and … Read More

View all posts by JoAnn Milivojevic

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