With lockdown restrictions being lifted, is it safe for seniors to go out? Rebecca Rushing, BSN, RN, from FirstLight Home Care shares helpful tips on how to test the waters and safely ease back into out-of-the house activities while minimizing coronavirus exposure.
The United States has been easing restrictions and lifting stay-at-home orders – and many people are itching to get back to “normal.”
Network news channels are showing beaches crowded with sunbathers and newly opened restaurants being overwhelmed with long lines and short tempers.
It’s a stressful time for everyone and made even more stressful by the knowledge that coronavirus continues to spread across the country – cases and deaths continue to rise.
With the specter of a still-high coronavirus risk to older adults, what is the best way to safely ease into becoming part of society again for seniors and family caregivers?
What the experts say
We all want to get out of the house, but the facts are sobering.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those aged 65 and older have accounted for 8 out of 10 deaths related to COVID-19.
Regardless of the easing of restrictions on business and other activities, it’s still recommended that those with health problems, with compromised immune systems or those over 65 continue taking precautions.
As a family caregiver, keeping up to date with your city and state’s community transmission numbers and regulations helps you decide when the risks are low enough to venture out.
Listen to reputable local and national experts and communicate with your older adult’s doctors and healthcare providers in order to develop a plan for safe re-entry into social life.
Many medical offices offer telehealth options so an in-person visit is not needed.
Begin to socialize very slowly
Social isolation has been hard on everyone so it’s tempting to rush out to resume regular activities and rejoin society.
But most experts suggest a gradual and cautious return for households with high-risk individuals.
If you’ve chosen to go out, to stay as safe as possible, the medical community recommends starting slowly with limited social interactions.
And keep in mind that wearing face coverings and washing hands are still considered the best tactics to stay safe and slow the spread of the virus.
If the local area has lifted the stay-at-home order, be careful to read the details to understand the full update. Some areas recommend that older adults and high-risk groups continue to stay at home, even as general restrictions have been eased.
Try activities with limited social exposure
If you’ve determined it is safe to do so, try going to your older adult’s favorite restaurant to pick up a take-out meal. Many eateries offer drive-through, take-out, curbside, or delivery services with limited interaction.
If your neighborhood has sidewalks, short walks are a great way to slowly reacquaint you and your older adult with the great outdoors.
Outdoor facilities and parks that are opening up may allow reduced activities, such as walking on specific paths or on boardwalks. But it’s best to avoid these places when they’re crowded and physical distancing isn’t possible.
Outdoor drive-in theaters have started showing movies again with reduced parking spaces for safety, so that’s always a fun outing for those with limited mobility.
Another outdoor activity that’s enjoyable but limits physical exposure to others is gardening. Even a few pots on a patio can provide an easy tomato or pepper garden with minimal effort.
In areas where it is too hot to stay out for long, indoor malls are reopening, offering a few stores with limited hours. Staying six feet away from others and wearing a mask at all times while at a mall can be a way to let your loved one feel part of a community while minimizing exposure.
We all want to stay safe and stay connected. As a family caregiver, you can take care of yourself and your older adult by getting out of the house – but don’t forget to take proper precautions to limit exposure to COVID-19.
Recommended for you:
- 8 Shelter-in-Place Coronavirus Tips for Senior Care in Your Home
- Coronavirus Senior Care: 33 Top Caregiver Questions Answered
- Nursing Home Lockdown: 6 Ways to Stay Connected with Seniors During a Coronavirus Scare
Guest contributor: Rebecca Rushing, BSN, RN, is director of Client Care Services for FirstLight Home Care. Nurse Beckie is a certified dementia practitioner, an Ageless Grace brain health educator, and a Positive Approach® to Care Independent Trainer. Beckie has more than 30 years of nursing experience and a passion for the well-being of older adults.
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