COVID-19 and flu season: How seniors can prepare

Senior Citizens Senior Citizens

By Leslie Haddock-Dehart

It is the middle of flu season, and COVID-19 numbers are rising, which means it's important for seniors to take precautions and become more prepared in the unexpected event of illness. This time of year is even more dangerous since it is possible to catch both flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. Even when there is no worldwide pandemic, securing adequate insurance protection and reviewing existing policies is a wise move to protect assets and provide for loved ones. It's a good idea for everyone, especially the elderly, to review life affairs such as health insurance, life insurance, powers of attorney, personal financial records and household information.

COVID-19 vs. FluAccording to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), while the flu can circulate year-round, most flu activity peaks between December and February, with activity lasting as late as May. It's important to understand that while COVID-19 and flu symptoms may be similar, there are some key differences. COVID-19 symptoms tend to be more severe than the flu, and the new virus can also cause a loss of taste and smell.

If you or your loved one live in an assisted living facilityPeople who live together are typically at higher risk of spreading COVID-19 or the flu to each other. Because of this, establishments such as assisted living facilities have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. While most facilities are following expert guidelines issued by the CDC or their state, there are precautions that residents and their loved ones can take to help mitigate the risk of exposure to the virus, such as:

Limit or eliminate in-person visitation: This may not always be possible, but it is the safest option. Instead, consider using Zoom, FaceTime or other applications to participate in video calls with residents.Wear a mask: If in-person visits are unavoidable, wear a mask when visiting loved ones in these facilities. It's a good idea to keep the mask on at all times and avoid eating or drinking during your visit.Practice social distancing: If you are visiting someone in assisted living or are a resident who receives visitors, it's important to maintain the CDC-recommended distance of at least six feet of separation from yourself and others at all times.Don't bring large groups: Keep the number of visitors to a minimum to ensure that safety practices can be followed.Wash hands frequently: It's a good idea for both the resident and their visitors to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water before, during and after any visits.Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: To avoid catching any illness (not just COVID-19), the CDC also recommends avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.If you or your loved one lives aloneWhile it is important to decrease the chances of exposure to COVID-19 or the flu, it can be difficult for those who live alone, especially those who need extra assistance with day-to-day activities. These are some things that people living alone and their family and friends can do to help limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 or the flu:

Convert in-person outings to virtual appointments: The CDC states that the safest option to avoid infection is to avoid contact with other people, but since this may not always be an option, consider doing things such as:Limiting trips to retail or grocery stores and restaurants by ordering online instead. Those who are less tech-savvy could ask family or friends to help order things online.Conduct work meetings, attend church or 'gather' with friends and family virtually via Zoom, FaceTime or other video apps.Utilize telehealth services for minor illnesses or injuries.Practice social distancing: If seeing people from outside your household is unavoidable, practice social distancing by getting together with family or friends in 'drive-by' visits or meeting together outside and maintaining at least six feet of separation.Practice good hygiene: Frequently wash hands with soap and water, especially after coming into contact with other people or after touching surfaces that other people have recently touched. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.Keep up contact with the outside world: Ask loved ones to call frequently and ensure that you are keeping in regular contact with people outside your household. Consider creating a schedule to check in with loved ones to ensure you have whatever you need.