Things to consider when visiting grandparents amid COVID-19

It's been a long few months filled with social distancing and for the elderly people in our lives, such as parents or grandparents, that isolation can be particularly difficult. But is it safe to visit family? One doctor tells us everything to consider. 

You may be really missing your extended family, but before planning any quick trips keep in mind older people are at higher risk of being severely ill with COVID-19. The risk goes up with age. 

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Ardeshir Hashmi says with careful planning and precautions it's possible to visit older relatives safely. But before heading out the door, assess your own health. 

"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 Dr. 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, Dr. Hashmi says it's best to reconsider your visit.

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

Dr. Hashmi says 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."

For families traveling long distances to see older relatives, Dr. Hashmi says it's a good idea to carefully think through the logistics. He says traveling by car may mean fewer interactions and less exposure to other people. On a road trip you want to pack your own food and remember the big risk is crowded bathroom stops where there might be a line and limited ventilation. Try to avoid that. 

And once you arrive, stay outside and socially distant as much as possible.