While Australia is doing a relatively good job at managing the impact of the coronavirus, now is not the time for us to get complacent and “return to normal” just yet. Particularly when it comes to coronavirus and elderly people.
We’ve all heard that coronavirus and elderly people are a worrying mix. Older people are at greater risk of more serious illness if they are infected with coronavirus (COVID-19). This applies to people over 70 years of age, people 65 years of age and over with chronic medical conditions, and people with compromised immune systems.
To remind us of what’s best practice around coronavirus and elderly people, the NSW Ageing and Disability Commission released some tips to help vulnerable older people and people with disability during coronavirus (COVID-19). We’ve adapted them here below (with permission) and have added some additional practical advice that you can use to help your ageing parents continue to stay safe during COVID-19.
Maintain social distancing and reduce time in crowds
Remind them (your parents) about maintaining a 1.5 metre distance with anyone, to avoid large gatherings and usual greetings.
The rule that no more than two people should be in public together except for family and household groups, still applies. Rules about this differ in each state so check State and Territory websites for further enforcement information.
As hard as it might be to stay apart, now is not the time to go visiting your parents, particularly with young children (and sorry, definitely no hugs and kisses). The Australian Government is still advising that everyone should stay home unless they are: shopping for what you need, receiving medical care, exercising or travelling to work or education.
Reduce time at the shops
If your parent wants to do their own shopping, or if you or a carer need to do it on their behalf, the major supermarket retailers have a dedicated “Community Hour” shopping time. You or your parent can go to Woolworths and Coles between 7am-8am, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They simply need to present a government-issued ID card when entering the store, and if you or a carer or shopping on their behalf, bring their ID with you. These arrangements are in place at Woolworths until Sunday 3 May, while Coles has not yet said when they will end. For the latest information go to Coles customer notices store information.
If your parent would prefer to stay home and have their groceries delivered, both supermarket chains have an online priority service for older people. To access the Coles Online Priority Service, register or log in to Coles Online and apply using the code provided by My Aged Care. To find out more go to Coles Online Priority Service Information. Woolworths customers need to register for Priority Assistance via Woolworths Online, where they need to complete the Priority Assistance form and include any supporting documentation.
Other supermarkets or produce providers may have similar options. Call your local supermarket, greengrocer, butcher, bakery etc to find out what services they offer. Lots of local businesses are doing their best to help manage coronavirus and elderly people.
Do not ignore regular medical needs
During a crisis, it can be easy to think a person’s daily medical needs are not as important. This is not the case, and any form of medical attention must not be ignored, especially for an older person or person with disability reliant on regular medication.
If your parent is worried about being in a waiting room with other people, call the medical practitioner ahead of time and see what arrangements can be made to make sure your parent just walks in. Some doctors are even doing appointments over the phone or over video calls.
Remind them of the updated hygiene practices
Clean hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub. Sneeze or cough into a tissue or a flexed elbow. And speak with them about avoiding close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms.
Things have changed since our parents taught us hygiene. We were taught to place our hands in front of our mouths when we sneezed or coughed. Now things are different. You might need to make your parent aware of the new updated hygiene practices to keep them and others safe.
Find ways to keep in touch
Social distancing and self-isolation are different, but both require keeping in touch with people. (just not touching them). Use the phone or email to have daily conversations with each other.
If email, text or phone calls are still making you feel isolated and distant from your parents, there’s lots of tools to have face-to-face conversations over the phone or PC. Apps like WhatsApp (available on iPhone and android phones), FaceTime (iPhone or iPad users), Skype (all devices including Personal Computers) or Zoom (all devices including Personal Computers) can help reduce the feelings of distance. There are even some specialist video phones, such as those from Konnekt, that might be helpful and easier to use (especially if your parent has reduced cognitive abilities or dementia.
Keep an eye on their diet
The more that vulnerable people stay indoors, the less interested they can become in eating healthy, regular meals. Consider talking to them about ordering home delivery of fresh produce from their local supermarkets, or drop off meals to them while maintaining social distancing rules.
For some ideas on healthy cooking for one see our article – cooking for one – healthy recipes for older people. You can also look at meal delivery services including Meals on Wheels.
Limit the 24-hour news cycle
The constant news cycle of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) can be overwhelming. Consider having a conversation with them about watching their favourite movie, or a new show. This also help manage increased fear and anxiety.
While it’s important to take a break from coronavirus news, it’s important your ageing parent gets the facts. If your parent doesn’t speak English very well, SBS has created an online portal with information about coronavirus available in 63 languages. The website has links to both written and audio information covering the latest news on the health and economic impacts of the virus in Australia and around the world, as well as features explaining government policy and health advice at https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus.
Read information from official sources
The amount of information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) increases daily. Encourage older to keep up to date with the latest information from official government sources. See source list below.
Need more information or have a specific question about coronavirus and elderly people? New COVID-19 hotline available
If you or your ageing parent are after more information about how to stay healthy during COVID-19, want to know the latest guidelines, or have questions about what is and isn’t allowed – there is a new telephone hotline available to help. Older people, carers, friends and family are encouraged to call 1800 171 866 (toll free) which has specially trained staff to assist.
The service is provided as a joint initiative from Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, National Seniors Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Dementia Australia supported by the Commonwealth Government. Read the full media release here.
Special thanks to the NSW Government through the NSW Ageing and Disability Commission for permission to reproduce and adapt its tips sheet.
Some useful links
The Australian Government’s official website with COVID-19 information – https://www.australia.gov.au/
Link to the latest coronavirus information from the States and Territories – https://www.australia.gov.au/#state-government
Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for older people – https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-older-people
NSW Ageing and Disability Commission – https://www.ageingdisabilitycommission.nsw.gov.au/
Tips to help vulnerable older people and people with disability during coronavirus (COVID-19) – https://www.ageingdisabilitycommission.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/776381/Covid19-tips-for-vulnerable-people_ageing-disability-commission.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1rW-clvzIX1SMysRwMM69Z_9SanUAikj5ITcsxTFt6dwNNVIoMIteO2tQ
COVID-19 hotline for older people
Media release with information about the hotline – https://www.dementia.org.au/media-releases/2020/new-hotline-for-older-australians-during-covid-19-pandemic-launched
Shopping information on coronavirus and elderly people
Coles community hour and latest shopping information – https://www.coles.com.au/customernotice#store-information
Woolworths community hour – https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/discover/community/news/community-hour-and-new-social-distancing-measures
Latest shopping information from Woolworths – https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/discover/community/news
Helpful article on Grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic from IDEAS (Information on Disability, Education and Awareness Services) –
Other useful information
Carers’ circle article on healthy cooking for one – https://carerscircle.com.au/2020/04/16/cooking-for-one-healthy-recipes-for-older-people/ –
SBS COVID-19 information in 63 languages – https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus