The Coronavirus: How to Stay Safe with a Serious Illness

We are live with Dr. R. Sean Morrison, Professor and Chair of the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Mount Sinai. Today, Dr. Morrison addresses what older adults should know about COVID-19, including risk factors, prevention tips, and more. #LiveAtMountSinai #Coronavirus

Posted by The Mount Sinai Hospital on Wednesday, March 11, 2020

This is a concerning time, especially for older adults and people living with a serious illness. Because of COVID-19, it’s important to protect yourself and loved ones as much as possible. In this blog post and video, Dr. Sean Morrison of The Mount Sinai Hospital discusses what a coronavirus is and provides important information and tips. 

What is a Coronavirus and How Could it Affect Me?

Coronaviruses are family of viruses that have been around for a long time. The current coronavirus is called COVID-19 (discovered in December of 2019), and is contagious – it is spread by droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected person, such as a sneeze or cough.

For those living with a serious illness or a compromised immune system, it is more dangerous to catch this virus, as it can cause serious symptoms (vs. the milder respiratory symptoms that other people may have). Thus, it is very important to protect yourself, and your loved ones, so that you do not expose yourself to the virus.

How Can I Stay Safe and Protect Myself?

Whether you are living with a serious illness, or caring for a loved one, we recommend the following to lower your risk of catching the virus:

– Keep your hands clean: Wash your hands frequently, and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If a sink, soap, and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

– Keep areas clean: Wipe down high contact areas, such as door handles, countertops, and bathrooms with a sanitizing wipe. 

– Limit visitors in your home: Don’t isolate yourself at home, but since you are at a higher risk, limit the number of visitors that you have (and make sure that they are healthy – not experiencing a sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, or fever). If they are feeling sick, it’s best to cancel. If you need home health aides or require home health visits, keep them.

– Avoid large gatherings and groups: For people living with serious illnesses, avoid large public places and gatherings. If you need to go to a doctor’s appointment or pick up groceries, be sure to keep your hands clean and wipe surface areas that you may touch. 

– Avoid public transportation: Unless you have to take public transportation for a doctor’s appointment, avoid public transportation. If this is not possible, only board buses and trains that are not crowded, and avoid subway poles or handles. Make sure to clean your hands thoroughly afterward.   

– Keep up exercise at home: If your doctor has advised that you should keep up exercise for your treatment plan, exercise at home—this will help you avoid contact with too many people and surfaces that may have the virus.

– Avoid travel: For people living with a serious illness, it’s best to cancel any plans for travel on an airplane or cruise ship. If you must take an airplane, wipe down all surface areas with a sanitizing wipe (such as seats, tray tables, arm rests, and seat belts).

– Doctor’s appointments: Reschedule any routine check-ups (e.g. dentists). If you have an appointment with your palliative care team, or another specialist (such as your cancer doctor), ask if you can have your appointment on the phone or through video chat (telehealth). Ask your doctor to see what they recommend. 

– Stay home if you are feeling sick: If you think you may have been around someone with the coronavirus, stay home and call your doctor. Since you are at higher risk, it’s important to let your doctor know right away.

When Should You Call Your Doctor? 

If you are living with a serious illness and are experiencing a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or fever, tell your primary doctor right away.

More Information

We also recommend reviewing the guidelines from the CDC, for people living with serious illnesses, and their caregivers. 


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