Prell: Coronavirus: Helping seniors through unprecedented times

Jennifer Prell
Jennifer Prell

The novel coronavirus has created a sense of alarm; people are very worried about their health and the economy.

The reality is healthy people will get sick, and their bodies will work through it in time. The major concern is the virus spreading to those who aren’t healthy, such as those with compromised immune systems and older adults with exacerbated health conditions.

An unfortunate result of 24/7 news coverage is a sense of panic that is setting in across the country. People have begun shopping in bulk, buying every sanitizing product around and acting irrational, which in turn raises the level of angst.

Two very simple ways to combat this virus is being diligent about hand-washing and avoiding close contact with others for 30 days.

Keep doing your normal daily routine and, in time, we’ll get through this.

A residual consequence of panic is major disruption in the operation of business. This can bankrupt hundreds – even thousands – of businesses, causing more damage than the actual virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given us many tools to help limit the spread of the disease:

• Stay home if you’re sick. If you have the coronavirus, isolate yourself at home, and only leave home to seek medical attention. Once you don’t have a fever for 24 hours without medications, you may return to normal activities.

• Avoid public areas. Do not go to school, work or public areas.

• Avoid public transportation. Do not get onto a train, bus or taxi.

• Stay away from others. Stay in a specific room in your home away from others. Use a separate bathroom, and disinfect it often.

• Limit contact with your pets. Pets collect dirt and bacteria on their fur. Give them a bath, and if you’re sick, leave them alone.

If you need to see the doctor because of the coronavirus, call ahead and make an appointment. He or she then will be able to take steps to protect others.

• Wear a face mask. Take this precaution if you are sick or taking care of a sick loved one.

• Cover your cough and sneeze. Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Do not share personal household items. This includes drinking glasses, cups, towels, bedding, etc. Wash thoroughly after use.

• Clean all high-touch surfaces every day with disinfectant. This includes counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.

In these unusual times, those of us with older loved ones should encourage them to stay home until the virus dies out. It is equally important to support them as they remain indoors by picking up prescriptions, as well as buying or having groceries and meals delivered during the crisis.

Most senior communities are now limiting visits from outsiders to help prevent the spread of the disease to their residents.

You can employ today’s technology, communicating with your loved ones via computer, phone, FaceTime and Skype. Remaining in close (virtual) contact will help keep spirits up while safely keeping an eye on one another.

Granted, these are unprecedented times; however, it’s very important to keep calm, do business as usual (the new usual), and as mom used to tell us, wash your hands.

• Jennifer Prell is president of Elderwerks Educational Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families for senior living, care, support and benefits. Visit or call 855-462-0100 for personal assistance. Email questions to

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