Identifying At-Risk Older Adult Populations, Coronavirus

As the country is wrapped in a global pandemic never witnessed before by many, it’s important to make predictions about which groups of people will be most affected by coronavirus, or COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that older adults carry the characteristics that put them at greater risk of illness and death related to the virus. These adults may have limitations which impair their ability to respond to an infectious disease or emergency, such as:

  • Disabilities that have impaired their mobility
  • Diminished sensory awareness due to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia
  • Multiple chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes
  • Social and economic limitations related to health care coverage and access to medical resources
  • Disruptions in the vital support systems they rely on such as understaffed nursing homes due to worker illness
  • Lack of caregiver preparedness and emergency management by the facilities they reside in

The CDC had previously published a guide titled, Identifying Vulnerable Older Adults and Legal Options for Increasing Their Protection During All-Hazards Emergencies that may be helpful during this time. While the guide is not to be used for legal or healthcare regulation, it does provide a service to those who may be advocates for older adults living in long-term care facilities in Illinois and would like to be better informed. The guide can be used to identify and protect vulnerable older adults during these types of all-hazards emergencies.

Coronavirus Symptoms and Emergency Warning Signs for At-Risk Populations

Updated on March 12, health officials in Illinois have confirmed 32 cases of coronavirus in the state. Adopting prevention methods to slow the spread of the disease and identifying symptoms early on can significantly help at-risk older adults living in nursing homes. Although this list is not inclusive, the CDC has identified these symptoms and emergency warning signs of coronavirus to be on the watch for:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion or inability to arouse
  • Discoloring (bluish) in the lips or face

Preparedness planning for COVID-19 for at-risk older adults, and the organizations that support them, including long-term care facilities, should be vigilant in preventing the introduction and spread of COVID-19 among residents and staff.

State and Federal Recommendations Say Limit Nursing Home Visitors, Screen Ill Workers

The CDC recommends that if you care for a loved one living in a care facility in Illinois, you should frequently be monitoring the situation with your resident or their caretakers by phone or email. Be sure to ask about the health of the other residents and staff members, and be proactive in educating yourself on the protocol if there is an outbreak.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, on Wednesday, March 11, Gov. Pritzker announced coronavirus prevention procedures for nursing home staff to follow, and put restrictions on visitors at state-run nursing homes. He also requested that privately-run nursing homes mimic state guidelines. The CDC, alongside the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, has said that visitors and healthcare personnel are the most likely sources of introduction of COVID-19 into a long-term care facility. The federal agencies also recommend aggressive visitor restrictions and enforcing sick leave policies for ill workers, even when COVID-19 has not yet been identified in a facility.

Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Related to Coronavirus

If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home, we can help. Please reach out to Levin & Perconti, a Chicago-based law firm ready to provide you with a free nursing home negligence consultation at (312) 332-2872.

Also read: Coronavirus Restricts Nursing Home Visitors In Illinois


Video transcript

What is coronavirus or COVID-19?

Hi. My name is Mike Bonamarte, and I’m hoping to answer some of your questions today about COVID-19 and what you can do to help your loved ones in nursing homes. The first question that I get, and it seems like a basic one, but people are looking for a little bit more information, is what is coronavirus or COVID-19? The answer is it’s an infectious disease caused by a new virus. It can lead to respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath. In a growing number of cases, it can be even more severe than the flu, with a higher mortality rate. There are certain populations at more risk of getting this virus, including individuals that are aged 60 or older, and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions.

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