I know all this talk of the coronavirus is unsettling, but it may have opened a door for you to have the dreaded ” talk” with your parents and your family. We have all heard that seniors should stay home as much as possible, but if your parents feel okay, they might be tempted to sneak away. One of my friends was telling me that his parents were making plans to travel despite all the media around, not going. A few weeks ago, they did not have any plans, and now they feel trapped, so they thought it would be a good idea. Oh, by the way, they are both retired physicians who should know better. The reality is that older adults are more susceptible, even those who are in good health. I remember my mom being anxious over my gram’s health, especially during flu season. At the time, I thought she is excellent; she is in good health; it is not a big deal. It very well could have been a big deal. With the coronavirus spreading so rapidly, we have to pay attention. So what can you do?

First and foremost, make sure you are getting information from a trusted resource. The CDC and The World Health Organization are updating their websites daily. You can also check out coronavirus.com. For those of us who are practicing social distancing and limiting or time in public, we can put the following preventative measures in place:

  • Practice safe handwashing
  • Use disinfecting hand wipes when soap and water is not available
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Wipe down surfaces in your home and let them dry in the air, concentrate on high-touch areas of the home
  • Do not touch your face
  • Verify medication supply, order online or check to see if you can get an extended supply
  • Beware of scams, whenever there is unrest the scammers come out in force

What if your parents are living with a chronic disease? Nine out of ten people over the age of sixty-five are living with at least one chronic condition, many of them two or more. Think about it; someone who has diabetes is more susceptible to heart disease. That alone makes them more likely to be at risk for coronavirus. Even if they are feeling great and their medical condition is managed, they are definitely at a higher risk. What do you need to know to make sure they are safe? What would happen if they needed treatment or showed signs of a respiratory illness? It is time to have “The Talk.” Here are some essential pieces of information you need to help your parents achieve the best healthcare outcomes. Know this is not going to be a one and done conversation. The outline below will guide you through some of the most critical pieces of information.

  • Gather information about all medications your parents are taking. That would include over the counter medications even if they are taken on an as-needed basis. It should also include a list of discontinued medication.
  • Re-schedule all unnecessary appointments
  • Do not travel 
  • If someone is not feeling well, the first thing you need to do is CALL your Doctor. Don’t go to the ER or your Doctor’s office and potentially infect others.
  • Gather information on insurance policies, legal documents, etc.
  • Get contact emails, phone numbers, and addresses for professional resources, neighbors, and friends.

If your parents are living in an assisted living facility or they are receiving in-home support, have all of the contacts documented. If the facility is managing their medication, you need to understand who is responsible and get an updated medication list. Make a note of the policies and procedures, what is the disaster recovery plan? How are they managing infection control? What happens if a caregiver doesn’t show up? What if there is an outbreak in the facility? Each state has there own set of rules and regulations, so you will need to check out the website in your state for specific rules and regulations. You will need to inspect what you expect. Even if you have to do that by calling each day, the staff must know you are paying attention to the care your parents are receiving. If it were me, I would want to have Alexa or Google in the house so we could communicate via video. If your parents are unfamiliar with the technology, this would be an excellent time to start with the lessons.