Since March, many older adults have quarantined, limiting contact with family to text messages, Zoom or Facetime. Now, months later, many long to see their children, grandchildren and other family and friends. But nagging questions linger: Is it safe? What are the risks?
These scientific facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can help us make the decision whether or not to visit with older family members:
- Older people are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection and death. According to the CDC, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.
- People can spread the disease without having symptoms. Asymptomatic people can look perfectly health and feel just fine.
- A negative COVID-19 test doesn’t guarantee a safe visiting with grandparents. If you test negative for COVID-19 by a viral test, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. That doesn’t mean you will not get sick. The test result means only that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing. You might test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during your illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected as a result.
- For grandparents in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living facilities, visitors are restricted. Call ahead to find out the facility’s policy. Ask about outdoor visits.
Here is a summary of what the CDC recommends to make any visit with family and friends as safe as possible.
- Delay or cancel your visit if you or other visitors:
- Have symptoms of COVID-19,
- Have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 during the last 14 days, or
- If you had close contact to a person with COVID-19 – meaning you have were within six feet of a person who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more during the days they had symptoms or two days before they had symptoms.
- Stay outdoors for the visit. If that is not possible, meet in a well-ventilated space where you can have open windows or doors. Also, ensure the space is large enough to enable social distancing.
- Spread out. Practice the “Safe Six” (six feet apart).
- No hugs and kisses. Avoid close contact. Wave instead.
- Wear a mask, even if you are indoors.
- Wash your hands and sanitize surfaces.
- Communicate! Talk with your family members and understand everyone’s concerns before visiting an older parent or grandparent. This is not a time for surprise visits. Planning ahead will help everyone get on the same page in advance.
And, always remember: you are safest at home.