For many families, it's hard enough to distance themselves from friends and neighbors due to the coronavirus pandemic, but for those who have grandparents or other elderly relatives living in the same home, the challenges are even greater.
And although some believe that those in the same home can relax a bit with quarantine practices because they're exposed to the same germs, that's not necessarily true for older adults.
"The issue isn't necessarily whether we 'share the same germs,' but rather how well our immune system functions to fight off infections," Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer of WebMD, told POPSUGAR. "As we get older, our immune system weakens, especially as we develop chronic conditions. One needs to be extra cautious when there is an epidemic."
Whyte added that it is important to maintain "vigilant hygiene" if grandparents live with you in the same household. "Remember that one could be infectious and not know it. So even if homebound, one needs to exercise caution. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security if you are healthy. This is a novel virus and we are still learning how it impacts the body. Stay vigilant even while homebound."
He suggests keeping commonly used items separate, when possible.
"For those living with Grandma and Grandpa right now, I would recommend limiting social exposure. When possible, no close quarters. Maintain six feet of distance. Try not to eat meals together and wipe down counters and doorknobs after use."
"In the house, one should not share kitchen utensils," he said. "Elderly parents should consider using a specific bathroom that just they use, if possible."
Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, a pediatric hospitalist at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, agrees.
"For those living with Grandma and Grandpa right now, I would recommend limiting social exposure," she said. "When possible, no close quarters. Maintain six feet of distance. Try not to eat meals together, and wipe down counters and doorknobs after use."
If all this seems impossible, she said to "focus on the things you can do rather than the things you can't."
For those parents who have relied on grandparents as a form of child care, it may seem like an especially vital time to lean on their help, with many working parents unable to send their children to school or day care. However, this should be avoided.
"I recommend avoiding contact between children and older adults," Mantravadi told POPSUGAR. "Some parents are unable to work from home and have limited childcare options at the moment. If possible, I would avoid having grandparents help with child care to minimize the risk given what we know about asymptomatic spread."
Whyte echoed her sentiments: "The reality is that, right now, grandparents probably should not be used as babysitters until we learn more about the virus and assess how widespread it is in different communities."
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the novel coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.