As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread across Wisconsin, the nation and world, health officials have made it clear that older adults and those with chronic health conditions are susceptible to the effects of this dangerous respiratory illness.

Many of our most vulnerable older adults live in communities where diseases can spread quickly such as nursing homes or assisted living. That’s why facilities are temporarily banning visitors in hopes of preventing the transmission of COVID-19 and limiting residents’ exposure to anyone who may be infected with the virus.

At the same time, seniors at home could be feeling isolated and anxious about how they can remain healthy and safe.

Currently, there are nearly 600,000 unpaid family caregivers across Wisconsin who provide assistance to loved ones at home and this number will increase with the spread of the virus. That’s why it’s so important that family caregivers have a plan in place in case they get sick and can’t care for those who are relying on them.

At AARP, we believe a plan should include:

• Pulling together a team. Develop a list of family and friends who can perform caregiving tasks, and identify local services and groups that can deliver essentials such as food or medications.

• Making an inventory of essential items. Determine how much food, water, medication and basic supplies the person you’re caring for has on hand.

• Getting medications in order. Make sure you have a list of medications and medical contacts. If there are upcoming appointments, reschedule or switch to a virtual visit.

• Staying connected. To combat isolation, set up communication devices and other technology. Encourage people to send cards, letters, magazines, puzzles or other items.

• Maintaining personal safety and self-care. To be safe and stay healthy, limit contact with visitors, practice social distancing, stay inside as much as you can and continue to wash your hands.

AARP has a dedicated, toll-free family caregiving line for people taking care of a loved one. Agents are available to take calls Mondays through Fridays, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., at 1-(877) 333-5885.