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COVID-19: What do elderly patients need to know?

Written By: Simone Sonnier, UT Physicians | Updated: March 13, 2020
elder coronavirus patient

The doctors and staff at UT Physicians are staying up-to-date with the rapidly changing information about COVID-19 through guidance from public health officials and our infectious disease experts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latest information (3/13/2020) shows that most people who contract COVID-19 will only present mild symptoms. Individuals over the age of 70, or who have chronic conditions or rely on medications that suppress the immune system, are considered at the greatest risk.

Carmel Dyer-web
Carmel Dyer, MD

Currently, social distancing is being recommended as the best prevention measure. Older patients should reconsider travel plans and attending crowded areas.

“We are recommending those who are at the greatest risk to stay home and only go out when necessary,” said Carmel Dyer, MD, a geriatrician at UT Physicians Center for Healthy Aging in Bellaire. Geriatricians are physicians who are trained in specialized care for the elderly.

Due to the need for social distancing and the safety of all patients, upcoming appointments may be disrupted.

“Our providers are continuing to see patients who need to be seen in person. For safety reasons, some of our patients may be offered a telephone visit for non-urgent issues. Routine follow-ups can be deferred to a later time when safety is no longer a major concern,” said Dyer, who is also executive director of the Consortium on Aging and executive vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Even though older individuals are recommended to stay home, they should be diligent about practicing good hygiene, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The CDC also recommends those at higher risk have enough supplies on hand to stay at home for a prolonged period of time.

  • Contact your physician about obtaining extra medications for an additional 30 days and consider using a delivery service or having them picked up by a family member or friend.
  • Take stock of your over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies that would be needed to treat COVID-19 at home (tissue, pain relievers, cough and cold medicine, etc.).
  • Make sure you have enough household supplies and groceries. Some stores offer delivery or pick-up options to avoid others who are potentially ill.

For additional information from the CDC, visit their site. To learn additional COVID-19 facts, read our FAQ.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.