elderly woman looking out of window

Do we still have to stay cooped up?

Dr. Warren Wong

Dr. Warren

Across the country, businesses and public spaces are opening back up. What does this mean for a caregiver since the caregiver must be especially careful to avoid transmitting the virus. And how does this affect the decision to have an older, frail and/or disabled person go outside? How do you balance the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 with the benefit of getting out of isolation?

Today, we will talk about various situations, some of which are relatively safe while others are of higher risk. Remember, however, that states and many communities have restrictions which must be followed.

The risk factors for becoming ill with the Corona virus have not changed. Advanced age, poor health status and a high prevalence of COVID-19 in your area all increase risk. Here are some simple tips to maintain safety:


  1. Time: The amount of time you spend around other people is a critical factor. Simply walking past a person who has COVID-19 is lower risk than spending 10-15 minutes next to that person.
  2. Space: Keeping a safe distance, at least 6 ft, between you and others is one of the most important ways to minimize exposure.
  3. Crowds: Avoid places where there may be crowds or people in close quarters. These settings have more people and safe distancing is harder to maintain.
  4. Outdoor Activities: Being outdoors is good since there is more room for social distancing and better fresh air circulation. Spending time in the open air and sunlight can also benefit mental health.


Low Risk Activities:

Riding in a car: If you care for another person on a daily basis, taking that individual on a car ride without getting out of the vehicle poses a very low risk.

Spending time in backyard or garden: Being outdoors in a protected area with just household members is low risk.

Visiting a park or public space or going for a walk: This is a low-risk activity as long as there is no significant exposure to other people.

Using a public restroom: A clean restroom containing no other people is relatively low risk. Be sure to wash hands carefully.


Medium Risk Activities:

Shopping: Visiting an uncrowded open-air mall poses less risk than does visiting an enclosed or busy one. Maintain distance from other people and avoid prolonged contact. Avoid staying in a single spot for an extended time. Be sure to wear a face mask.

Eating out: In general, be cautious in restaurants. Avoid eating out if COVID-19 cases are still prevalent in your community. An uncrowded and spacious restaurant is better. Waiters should wear masks, as restaurants engage in various high-touch and high-contact activities. Bring and use hand sanitizer before eating. Wear a mask as much as possible.


Higher Risk Activities:

Attending weddings, funerals, large parties or public ceremonies: These events pose higher risk because they convene large crowds, often in enclosed spaces. Moreover, many of the guests may be arriving from areas with varying rates of COVID-19 outbreaks. Avoid if at all possible.

Participating in religious services: This activity comes with higher risk because of the larger number of people all together and because of duration of exposure to potentially infected individuals. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart in all directions.

Going to a hair or beauty salon: This is a relatively high risk because of the stylist’s frequent, close, and prolonged exposure to clients. A caregiver should be concerned about the safety of both him/herself and the person being cared for.  Wear a mask.


One final note on masks and hand-washing:

Masks: For some patients, such as those with Alzheimer’s Disease, keeping a face mask on is very difficult. In those circumstances, the caregiver should be extra careful to practice physical distancing. The caregiver should wear a mask as a reminder to others. The needs of patients who suffer from breathing conditions should also be considered.  I’ll be talking more about masks soon.

Hand-washing: Bring a hand sanitizer and ensure that both you and the person you are caring for use it frequently. When arriving home, wash hands and face with soap and water.


Dr. Warren

Be connected, stay strong


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