Families With Aging Parents: Take Two Protective Measures Against COVID-19

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Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, Consultant, AgingParents.com

We generally understand that older people are at greater risk than younger people for becoming ill from COVID-19. But everyone wants to get “back to normal”. That meant a more casual attitude and way of living that was not based on fear of catching a very contagious, potentially deadly disease. For our aging parents, those casual days are probably gone for the foreseeable future. The focus on health and protecting our loved ones is now paramount as never before.

In this pandemic we have learned a number of things that pointed to exceptionally high likelihood of serious illness. One is pre-existing medical conditions. The fatalities and serious cases had a pattern: high blood pressure was a prominent factor. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults have it.  Many don’t know it and do not take medication. Others cannot afford medication or do not have access to appropriate medical care to keep high blood pressure under control. Anyone with an aging parent would do well to be sure that your loved one’s blood pressure is checked regularly. If it is high and the healthcare provider prescribes medication, adult children can help see that medication is available and that your aging parent takes it as prescribed. That not only reduces the risk of becoming ill from the novel coronavirus, but keeping blood pressure under control helps prevent strokes and heart attacks as well. 

But what if all routine medical visits, like annual checkups are canceled for now? What can families do? Some folks already have blood pressure monitoring devices at home. If your aging parents don’t, one thing you can do is to get one for them. Drugstore chains carry them or they can be ordered online. (They are relatively inexpensive). Learn how to use it yourself and help any aging parent who has not done this before to learn how. It’s easy to check one’s blood pressure and compare the readings with what is considered normal by the American Heart Association. If you see readings that are high, arrange a telemedicine visit with the primary care physician. If a prescription is needed, that can be ordered and delivered to your aging parents’ home. With their blood pressure under control, you’ll worry less about them.

Another clearly identified condition that increases the likelihood of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association 14.3 million seniors age 65 and older have Type 2 diabetes. That’s almost 27% of our elders. And many do not even know they have it. Again, one thing families can do is to pay close attention to aging parents, and do all you can to see that they have regular checkups when these become available. If your aging loved one never sees a doctor, he or she will never know about chronic health issues like diabetes and ways to manage it safely. In this time of limited in-person access to healthcare providers, adult children may need to help aging parents seek the health care monitoring they need. One thing that is opening now, even when doctors’ offices remain closed, is labs. A telemedicine visit with the doctor can lead to an order for blood work to check your loved ones’ blood sugar level. That would reveal diabetes or pre-diabetes. If blood sugar is too high, preventive protocols can be started to keep things from getting out of control. This is one more way to help protect your aging parents from the worst risks of COVID-19.

As there is no cure as yet for COVID-19 and no vaccine at this time, we need to help aging loved ones protect themselves against the known risks. You as an adult child cannot stop your aging parent from developing either high blood pressure or diabetes, but you can help them monitor their health effectively. Even in this pandemic, protective measures can be put in place.  These measures are needed for compelling reasons: we have to strengthen our own immunity because our own state of health is all we’ve got from within. From without, we of course continue to follow the basic protocols of social distancing, wearing masks, frequent hand washing and avoiding crowds.

No one wants to lose a loved one to this tragic disease among us. When we step up our vigilance over the health of vulnerable elders in our families we are doing the best possible things we can to keep them safe.

Do you have difficult aging parents? Is their stubbornness causing stress for you? Get guidance now about what to do. We answer your legal, healthcare and financial questions so you can reduce the stress load. Contact us today for a video conference or telephone consultation (fee based) at AgingParents.com, 866-962-4464

Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, Consultant, AgingParents.com

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