All over the world, older people have appeared to be more severely impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and it’s been more lethal for older age groups.
This is common with most illnesses, including the flu, but because of the potential need for ventilators and other drastic medical interventions, a lot of older people are rightfully cautious right now.
Many of the deaths in the United States have occurred in nursing homes as well.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are facing increasing scrutiny as a result and are being required to take new precautions to protect residents.
Some of these precautions include screening employees weekly for COVID-19 and prohibiting visitors.
Even as many states in America start their reopening plans, older people are still being advised to self-isolate as much as is possible.
That then creates a question for families that live in a multigenerational household.
How can you protect your older loved ones if they live with you, or they provide regular care for your kids?
It’s a tough question, but one a lot of families are facing.
Why Are Older People More at Risk?
If you live in a multigenerational household with your own parents or in-laws as well as your children, or you’re going to return to work, and your older parents are your childcare providers, knowing the facts will help you figure out the best course of action in this challenging time.
First, why are older people more at risk from COVID-19 complications, even though they’re no more at risk for actually getting infected?
Doctors point out that it’s not necessarily your age itself that puts you at risk for the most severe complications but is often because of having an underlying chronic disease and sometimes multiple underlying conditions.
For example, if someone is 60 years old but has multiple underlying severe health conditions, they may fare worse if they get the virus than someone who’s 80 but doesn’t have any other conditions.
As we get older, sometimes our immune systems may weaken too.
For example, as you age, your body has fewer T cells.
T cells produce chemicals that fight viruses.
Children have more T cells than even teens do.
By the time you reach age 50, your number of T cells goes down substantially.
With that being said, even in multigenerational homes, there are steps you can take to protect your loved ones right now.
Limit Your Own Trips Outside the Home
For the time being, if you live with your parents or older relatives, try to limit your own trips outside the home as much as you can, and the same for your children.
When you do go out, don’t bring your kids with you if you can help it. Kids are more likely to touch different surfaces, and if you’re in a multigenerational household, they might bring those things home.
You should take sanitizer or wipes with you, stay six feet from others, and wear a mask when you do go out.
If you have to leave for work, when you return home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds right away.
If you have a particularly vulnerable person in your household, think about changing your shoes and clothes as soon as you return.
If your kids go to a childcare program outside of the home, they should do the same.
When you’re going to go into the same room as your older loved one, be very careful.
Wash your hands before you provide any kind of care, and wear a face-covering even at home.
You can still social distance when you live in the same home, so keep in mind the same principles you follow when you’re out and about, such as being six feet away and covering sneezes or coughs and then washing your hands right away.
Clean the House More Often Than Normal
Even if you keep a tidy house, truly deep cleaning your house is important right now and especially if your home is multigenerational.
You want to do those cleaning tasks that you might not ordinarily do as frequently at least every few days.
For example, you should mop surfaces, and also wipe down bathroom sinks and toilets, as well as kitchen surfaces.
Wash towels often and try not to reuse them without washing them first.
When you’re washing laundry, use the warmest temperature setting you can, and make sure you put all of your items in the dryer until they’re fully dry.
If you hand wash your clothes, similarly use the warmest temperature setting you can.
You should also soak clothes for at least 30 minutes before you rinse them.
If you have a separate bathroom that the oldest members of your household can use, you should set that aside and not let anyone else in the family use it.
If you prepare and share meals together, you should wash your hands not only before you cook but while you’re cooking and when you’re done.
Make sure you cook all foods to the right temperature that you kill any possible germs and wash and disinfect surfaces often as you go.
Try to keep at least six feet away from each other at mealtime.
If your loved one is especially vulnerable, you might want to have meals at different times or eat in different rooms.
Finally, it’s important that everyone healthily manages their stress and anxiety as well.
Emotions are probably running high, so take care of one another and pay attention to everyone’s mental health in the household.
Encourage your loved one to take walks if it’s safe for them to do so, and you should make a conscious effort for everyone in your family to take news breaks so that you aren’t continually inundating everyone in the household with scary information.
You want to be informed, but not to the point that it’s causing mental distress.
Do the best you can right now to provide a clean, safe environment for everyone in your multigenerational home, but don’t be too hard on yourself about things you can’t control.