How to deal with COVID-19 when you are over 65
Their well-being

Keeping well all round


Encourage them to go out walking every day; they need the exercise and they need the daylight and change of scenery.  But be clear that this does not mean meeting up with them yourself unless you are both prepared to keep your distance.  They should treat everyone they meet as though that person is infectious. No meeting with friends to walk together. Walking your dog is fine. Empty roads and streets are fine, as are parks and other open spaces. The social distancing rules apply here as well of course.

Personal hygiene

Personal hygiene is very important – washing hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow and so on.  Encourage them to follow basic hygiene around the home, especially the bathroom and kitchen, cleaning down those surfaces that get frequently touched.  Daily showers should be encouraged.  They should not share towels or silverware. If their housing arrangements allow it they should sleep alone and use a separate bathroom. If they have a dishwasher this should be used.  Similarly normal laundry is safe, and personal clothing and linen should be washed frequently. 

Mental health

This is a stressful and challenging time for everyone concerned, and you need to plan how to deal with that side of their lives - both the infected person and those in the household.  Firstly it helps to acknowledge that you understand that they are stressed and are aware of its affect.  People tend to eat more, be restless, sleep poorly, to lose concentration more quickly than usual. They may close in on themselves and become immobile through anxiety.  Secondly, ensure that they take a break from obsessing with the news. As the CDC says - "you don't have to watch, read or talk about COVID-19 all day. It’s important to stay informed but not consumed."  Some people find it helpful to free one room (especially a bedroom) of all technology - so that people can escape there, be comfortable and quiet, away from it all for the moment. Help them create a time and space to unwind.  How practical is to do what they most enjoyed doing in better times?  What have they been putting off doing? Maybe now is the time. The cluttered cupboard, the old clothes, sorting out that drawer of family papers or photos. All those recipes that need to be organized.  Think about how they might stay active physically whether it is formal exercise or not. Walking, cleaning, gardening are all good.  how do you enable that to happen? Loneliness is a real problem these days.  Set up the technology they need to interact socially with friends and relatives.  There are many apps to choose from.   Facetime, WhatsApp and many others are simple to use.  Remember too that if it is their spouse who is ill that their loneliness will be real and frightening. Lastly, pay attention to their sleep. Encourage them to follow a sleep routine that works for them and not to fall asleep in front of the TV.  Suggest they go to bed at roughly the same time each night, so that mind and body are prepared and expecting it. The aim should be to wind down gently each evening.