What to do if grandparents are living with your family right now

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Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto 

If you have elderly relatives, such as grandparents, living with your family there are a range of simple steps you can all make to help protect them from contracting COVID-19. Weaker immune systems mean it’s essential to take extra care around older people,especially when you share a living space.

Not kissing or hugging, social distancing, washing your hands regularly with soap and reducing the amount of time your children are looked after by elderly relatives in your home, are most important at this time.

Other measures like not sharing cutlery and drinkware, sanitising doorknobs,counters and common areas, sleeping in separate rooms and not sharing bathrooms where possible – will also help. And encouraging them to stay at home, by helping with groceries and prescriptions, is vital.

Aged care and dementia expert Tamar Krebs said looking after older people in your life was vital. “We have to remember that we can still maintain social distancing without social isolation,” founder of Group Homes Australia Ms Krebs said.

“This would mean ensuring that we have at least 1.5-2 metres in between family members in a house. Whether this means having meals at different times or sitting on different couches in the living room, and refraining from physical touch, like a hug or a cuddle with your grandparent.

“Frequent washing and sanitising of hands while in your home is also recommended, to help prevent the spread of the virus.”

It’s also important to ensure the elderly in your home were not feeling distressed or lonely.

“We’re ensuring that our aging residents are particularly busy during this time, within the homes, so that they are not feeling the heaviness of the times,” she said.

“They are keeping busy with gardening, getting involved in the cooking and baking and social engagements, while practising social distancing but not social isolation.”

An RACGP spokesperson said people need to remember that it was still unclear what role children played in passing on the virus.

“At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear,” the spokesperson said.

“However, there has been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children so far, compared to the broader population.”

Although, it was important to remember that older people were at greater risk and preventative measures should be taken such as washing hands, not touching your face, avoiding crowded places and social distancing.

“Older people are more at risk. so when they’re living in the same home as grandchildren extra care must be taken,” the spokesperson said.

“If children are going outside the home then they should practice social distancing. While it may be challenging, grandparents should try to keep a social distance from children going outside the home, which could mean using separate common areas, if that’s practical.

“If someone in the family starts feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms they, or their parent, should call their GP, and try to isolate the person from the other family members as much as possible.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor of the faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University Professor Archie Clements said people should follow government guidelines.

“These are all aimed at protecting vulnerable people, including grandparents, from being infected,” Prof Clements said. “Practicing good hygiene – using hand sanitiser and washing hands with soap regularly. This applies to children too.

“All family members should practice social distancing outside the home. Avoid large gatherings of people. Adhere to all government directives in relation to work, socialising and other activities outside the home.

“He said at this stage there was little evidence that children were a major contributor to this epidemic, but for those people who have been potentially exposed in other ways should take necessary precautions.

“If a family member has been in direct contact with a known case, or has travelled from overseas, or arrived from a cruise ship, isolate them in the home and seek medical advice,” he said.

And there’s some innovative ways to help your loved one self-isolate, but still remain close by, like hiring a caravan.

“With all arrivals to Australia now required to self-isolate for 14 days and newly introduced state border restrictions, we knew our emergency fleet (of fully stocked caravans and motorhomes) could play a role in supporting Australians’ impacted during this turbulent time,” Camplify CEO and founder Justin Hales said.

“In the past week alone, the platform has already received close to 50 requests from those seeking a way to host a returning family member or friend required to self-isolate from their private property. “We hope that in the wake of coronavirus, we can help make the self-isolation and social distancing processes more comfortable and enable Australians to remain safe, whilst making it easier for their loved ones to be close-by to check-in on them.”

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