Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Seniors are the most vulnerable. Since most people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are in their senior years, the Parkinson’s Foundation wants you to be prepared for COVID-19 and Parkinson’s.
About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are like the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In 2019, a new virus formed and spread from China to other countries, including the U.S. now called COVID-19.
Signs and symptoms of infection with COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. There is currently no cure or vaccine. Those who believe they may have the illness should seek medical treatment right away. Read the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) factsheet here.
Seniors and COVID-19
Seniors are most at risk to develop COVID-19 and its symptoms, which can increase the already elevated risk of getting pneumonia. Seniors should strongly consider getting the pneumonia and flu vaccine as soon as possible or speaking about it with their doctor.
In general, viruses spread faster in residential facilities, community housing and assisted living centers. When possible, seniors living in these facilities should avoid communal rooms and sanitize often.
Preparedness for People with Parkinson’s
Living with Parkinson’s does not put you at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but it does make it harder for you to recover if you contract it. This is because people with PD have slight differences in their immune systems.
Parkinson’s and care partners should take these tips into consideration to be better prepared for COVID-19:
- Wash your hands. Wash them often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Carry hand sanitizer. When in public spaces use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Sanitize around you. Stay as healthy as possible and use disinfectant wipes in public areas.
- Know the symptoms. Primary symptoms include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and/or shortness of breath.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stock up on essential supplies.
- Practice social distancing (also known as physical distancing) as an everyday precaution. Stay six feet away from others.
- Wear a cloth face covering or surgical mask in public settings. The CDC advises the use of simple cloth face covering (or making your own) to slow the spread of the virus.
- Limit outings. If you must go out in public for essentials, practice social distancing, avoid crowded areas, wear a face mask and wash your hands often.
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to reduce your risk of being exposed.
- Avoid cruise travel and all non-essential travel.
- Check all your medications. Take inventory of all medications and reorder any that are running low.
- Write your medication list down. Write down or print a list of all your medications (not just PD medications). Include medication name, strength, times taken and dosages. This customizable medication schedule can help.
- Make a list of your doctors. Make a list of your doctors and their contact information and take it with you in the event of a hospitalization.
- Stock your Aware in Care kit in the event you need to educate a health care professional about your PD needs. Order one here.
- Have your Medical Alert Card handy. Keep it with you at all times. Print one here.
- PD Hospitalization and Coronavirus Preparedness Fact Sheet: Download this document that has crucial information for healthcare professionals in the case you are hospitalized during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Parkinson's Disease Care Partner Guide: Download this document that provides answers to questions for people who have loved ones in a senior living facility during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Know your community response plan. Check in with your state’s emergency management agency here.
- Get the latest tips for hospitalization with PD by watching this video with National Medical Director Dr. Michael S. Okun.
The Parkinson's Foundation will continue to monitor and report on COVID-19.
Join Us Online
You can also connect with us online by joining PD Conversations, an online network of support where you can ask your Parkinson’s questions and connect with others living with and impacted by Parkinson’s. Join our General Discussion group now.
If you have questions about Parkinson's disease call our free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) or email Helpline@Parkinson.org to contact an information specialist.