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  • Scripps Health

How Does COVID-19 Affect Older Adults?

Six ways to prevent illness, social isolation and loneliness

Older adults – especially those with medical conditions – have been hit hard by COVID-19 and need extra support.

Those age 65 and older account for 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People 85 and older have the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Many seniors are staying safe by staying home and social distancing, but are now at increased risk of social isolation and loneliness, which can result in depression, anxiety and other health problems.

Fortunately, many services are available to help seniors stay safe and socially engaged during the pandemic. These services include food delivery, online exercise programs and other free or low-cost offerings through public health services.

“We want our seniors, especially those most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19, to stay home as much as possible during the pandemic and to have a support system in place that can help ensure their safety and well-being at home,” says Alexander Meilan, DO, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines.

Dr. Meilan recommends the following:

1. Don’t hesitate to seek emergency and non-emergency care

Don’t delay going to the emergency room or calling 911 for any medical emergency. Emergency departments have COVID-19 prevention plans to keep their patients and staff safe.

Staying in contact with your doctor is important especially for seniors with chronic conditions. In many cases, non-emergency visits can be done via telemedicine. In some cases, an in-person visit is necessary, such as getting an annual flu shot.

Caregivers can help their seniors download a telemedicine app to their smart phones or tablets and teach them how to use it. Make sure the app has privacy features to protect patient health information.

2. Stay connected, prevent loneliness