The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported those at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 includes older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes. Long-term care facilities and organizations that provide services to older adults have had to take drastic measures to protect the populations they serve. Actions have included restricting visitors and group activities. Executive Director of ElderCircle Renee Bymark addressed the decisions being made at the organization and ways older adults can cope with all of the fast-moving changes that are taking place.

COVID-19, also referred to as coronavirus disease 2019, “is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person,” according to the CDC. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.”

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment available to protect against COVID-19. Guidelines announced Monday, March 16 by President Donald Trump included avoiding groups of more than 10 people, eating and drinking at bars, food courts and restaurants, and discretionary travel for the next 15 days. This goes along with the overarching recommendation to practice “social distancing.”

A press release from ElderCircle explained “social distancing” as a way to ensure people maintain physical distance from others in order to decrease the risk of disease transmission.

“We are taking steps to maximize social distancing while still maintaining our critical operations,” said Bymark.

Actions taken by ElderCircle have included pausing all group activities and support groups through March 31, and closing Adult Day Stay at the Itasca YMCA through March 31. ElderCircle offices are closed to the public through March 31, but staff can still be reached by phone and email.

“Staff will provide telephone reassurance and support over the phone when needed,” Bymark stated.

Grocery shopping and delivery services are still being provided. Additionally, volunteers and staff are being screened daily when coming in for work. Clients with non-essential medical appointments are being asked to reschedule at this time. Meanwhile, Assisted Transportation is continuing to provide rides to essential medical appointments.

With all of these changes, some older adults may find themselves with a lot more time to themselves. Some may experience feelings of loneliness as they spend time away from friends and family. In order to combat these feelings of isolation and a lack of activities, Bymark offered the following suggestions for older adults to stay busy:

• Activities such as reading, crossword puzzles, sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, adult coloring.

• Reach out to friends and family via phone or video calls.

• Write down stories about yourself that you would like your family and future relatives to know.

• Take a virtual trip online. Many museums, zoos, national parks and landmarks around the world offer virtual tours through their sites that you can take for free.

• FaceTime with family and friends to keep in touch.

• Bring movement into your day through free virtual exercise or yoga classes online. Or just get outside for some fresh air.

“Physical activity is important,” Bymark said.

Other suggestions given by a press release from ElderCircle to restrict the spread of COVID-19 include the following:

• Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently such as handrails, door knobs and countertops.

• Washing hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water. If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Avoid close contact with those who are sick.

For more information, contact ElderCircle, at 218-999-9233.


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