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Tips for safely visiting grandparents during the pandemic

COVID-19 + summer
COVID-19 + summer

There’s nothing better than visiting grandma and grandpa.

But for months, COVID-19 has forced many of us to keep our distance -- as older people are at higher risk and have higher mortality rates.

Dr. Ardeshir Hashmi, a geriatric medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic, said with careful planning and precautions, it’s possible to visit older relatives safely.

Before heading out the door though, he recommends we assess our own health first.

“Do we have any symptoms suggestive of coronavirus? And if we do, it would be important to have ourselves checked and also be very judicious about waiting so that the symptoms are not with us for a good period of time,” he said.

Once you’ve been symptom-free for 14 days, take a close look at who you’re visiting and their health status.

According to Hashmi, there are a number of medical conditions that put an older individual at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 – including medications that suppress the immune system, any type of lung or heart disease and cancer.

If your loved ones have multiple conditions that put them at greater risk, Hashmi said it’s best to reconsider your visit.

When visiting nursing homes or assisted living facilities, you’ll want to check and abide by all social distancing and masking requirements.

If you’re traveling out of town to visit grandparents, be aware of any restrictions in that particular city or state as well.

When you arrive, Hashmi said outdoor visits are best, but if you must be indoors, try opening a window to increase fresh air circulation.

He adds that time spent with grandparents is emotionally and socially beneficial for everyone, but will require extra measures to keep them safe.

“It’s still a visit but a different visit where the solid core guidelines of frequent hand washing, hand sanitization with alcohol-based preps, safe measures with social distancing, so at least six feet away, wearing masks, I think, absolutely key,” said Hashmi.

For families traveling long distances to see older relatives, Hashmi said it’s a good idea to carefully think through logistics.

He said traveling by car may mean fewer interactions and less exposure to other people.

Also, be sure proper safety measures have been put in place by hotels and airlines you may encounter along the way.