The Elderly and Those with Underlying Health Conditions at Highest Risk for Complications from COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals that are elderly and/or have serious underlying health conditions – such as lung, kidney, and/or heart disease – are at highest risk for experiencing complications if they contract the COVID-19 illness.

If you have an older loved one, it is important that you learn as much as possible about this particular coronavirus and that you learn a few measures that will help in protecting them from developing the illness.

If they do contract the illness, it is also imperative that you know what steps to take to help lessen the potential effects. Continue reading to learn more.

 The Elderly are at Highest Risk for Complications

Data retrieved by the CDC in the earliest days and weeks of the coronavirus COVID-19 illness indicate that older people are twice as likely to experience more severe cases of the illness. There are a couple of different theories on why this seems to be the case.

First, the immune system experiences changes as the body ages. As a result, it is increasingly more difficult for the body to fight off infections and diseases. Secondly, many older people have underlying health issues. These – combined with immune system issues – seem to make it much more difficult for individuals to cope with illnesses and to successfully recover from those illnesses.

Symptoms and Warning Signs an Emergency is Occurring

The COVID-19 coronavirus symptoms include the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

Symptoms that indicate a potential emergency include the following:

  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Experiencing Pressure and/or Pain in the Chest Region
  • Confusion Not Previously Experienced
  • The Inability to Successfully Arouse
  • Bluish Tint or Color to Lips
  • Bluish Tint or Color to Face

If the standard symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus are being experienced, you should contact the local health department for your area and your elderly loved one’s doctor. If your loved one starts to experience symptoms that indicate an emergency is occurring, seek assistance right away.

Be certain to place a mask on your sick loved one in order to prevent the spread of the illness. If they are exhibiting signs of COVID-19 and you must call 911, be certain to express that to the dispatcher so that they may relay the information to the medical personnel that will be on the ambulance that will be arriving to help your loved one.

Prepare Now

To protect your older loved one from COVID-19, you must start preparing now. If your loved one lives at home (outside of an assisted living facility or nursing home), you may initiate preparations by doing the following:

  1. First, encourage your loved one to stay home. They should avoid places with crowds – at all costs.
  2. Arrange methods of having food and other items of necessity delivered through family, social networks, or even commercial networks.
  3. Contact your loved one’s doctor and request that they send in – at the minimum – a 90-day supply of necessary prescriptions. This way, should an outbreak occur in the community and people have to stay home for an extended amount of time, at least your loved one will have their medications.
  4. Purchase and stock up on over-the-counter medications and supplies. This includes medications that help in treating pain, fever, colds, and sore throat. You should also purchase any soaps, hand sanitizer, and paper products needed for your loved one. If possible, purchase an anti-viral face mask. That way, should your loved one become ill and have to go outside of the home for care, they may wear it to protect themselves and those around them.
  5. Make sure household items and even food items are stocked up – just in case it becomes impossible to venture out for these items later.
  6. Consistently clean and disinfect your loved one’s home. Remember to hit areas that are touched often such as door knobs, light switches, and kitchen appliances.
  7. Set up a communication plan. This could be phone calls, video chats, emails, or a combination of all. You should make a plan to communicate frequently so that if an issue arises, it can be dealt with quickly.

If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility or in a skilled nursing home, there are steps that may be taken to prepare. These include:

  1. Unless recommended by the facility or authorities in the area, do not move your loved one from the facility, but focus on monitoring them. Moving them could put them more at risk.
  2. Ask the facility about plans that they have for staff members – in terms of developing illness. For example, are there guidelines in place that should staff become ill that they are to remain at home? If yes, who will come in to replace them in their absence? What type of training does backup staff have?
  3. Make certain that medical equipment is not shared among patients in the facility. If it is, recommend that it is thoroughly cleaned and completely disinfected between patient usage.
  4. Make certain the facility is making staff take part in infection control training and also in infection control training as it pertains to the specific coronavirus, COVID-19.
  5. Review the CDC Guidelines put into place for all health professionals. If you feel as if the facility is not adhering to these, contact the CDC or another long-term care authority to report the information.
  6. If you or others become ill, you should avoid going to the facility to visit your loved one. Not only does this put your loved one at risk, it puts everyone else in the facility at risk, too.
  7. Make sure the community where the assisted living facility or the nursing home where your loved one resides has an action plan in place for preventing and monitoring infections.


While it has been deemed that the overall risk for infection is low to the average American, that risk increases with age and underlying conditions. Not only that, should an infection develop, these groups are at higher risk for developing complications. Prevention measures are the key to success. For more information on how to help an older loved one, you may contact their doctor or your health department. For information on assisted living facilities and nursing homes and/or placement, you may contact Beacon Senior Advisors today by calling: 973-713-0096

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