The threat of COVID-19 demands prompt and effective action from everyone. With strict social distancing measures, many people continue to suffer from the disruption of ordinary life.
Senior citizens are at even higher risk, especially as the novel coronavirus infection leads to higher mortality rates for older people. Hence, families should know how to protect their seniors’ health and well-being despite all the uncertainty surrounding them right now.
Know The Situation
Understanding the capabilities of COVID-19, especially for the elderly, is key to formulating strategies to protect them from the illness.
COVID-19 causes flu-like symptoms, but it is several times more fatal than the common flu. Many infections progress to pneumonia, which is when fluid accumulation happens in the lungs. When this condition occurs, people require admission to a hospital. Even with intensive care, significant numbers of people who develop pneumonia eventually succumb to the coronavirus illness.
A particular characteristic that makes COVID-19 dangerous is that it targets older people. Senior parents generally have weaker immune systems than the rest of the population. Many senior citizens also have pre-existing medical conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes. These factors make them more likely to catch the disease and more likely to progress to severe illness.
COVID-19 is infectious. Respiratory droplets that sick people release from coughing and sneezing can travel several feet and easily infect others. The illness has an incubation period that can last for two weeks, and some people fail to develop any symptoms despite being infectious. Hence, people can readily transmit the coronavirus without realizing that anything is wrong.
Given that the elderly are at considerable risk, you should take steps to isolate them from any potential sources of the virus. Social distancing is an effective way to suppress transmission. Everyone in the house, including the non-elderly, should refrain from unnecessary exposure with other people. Be sure to delegate necessary tasks, such as grocery shopping, to younger people in the household.
Even if seniors are not directly exposed, they can still catch the infection if someone else in the house gets sick. Hence, everyone should practice good hygiene habits. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Wear good-fitting masks, especially when going outside.
Avoid accommodating visitors into your home. Even family members should minimize unnecessary contact with senior members of the household. The elderly need to self-isolate even at home. According to Dr. Samir Sinha, MD, “their greatest risk is when people come to visit them.”
To reduce the need to go outside, make plans in advance. Maintain an inventory of necessary items such as food and drinks. Buy in larger quantities whenever you go out so that you can reduce the frequency of trips.
If senior members of your family require maintenance medication, prioritize procurement for these items.
Maintain a small but significant inventory, since drugstore closures and other events can make it impossible to buy medicines for days at a time. Check drugs for quality and dispose of those that are already beyond their expiration date. Avoid hoarding; this action makes it harder for everyone else to get what they need, and it increases the risk of medication wastage.
Maintain Healthy Habits
Isolation is not an excuse to forgo healthy habits. In particular, senior citizens will be at higher risk if they stop eating healthily and exercising. Regular physical activity and appropriate diets are necessary to keep their immune systems healthy, which will help protect older people from the coronavirus.
It can be challenging to be physically active while stuck indoors, but it’s not impossible. Consider dances or even strenuous household chores.
Just be mindful that senior parents may not be able to complete some movements, especially if they have orthopedic problems. Keep an eye on them to avoid the risk of injury. If your elderly family members sustain an injury, you might have a hard time finding a healthcare center that can accommodate them.
Don’t Forget Social Interaction
Social distancing doesn’t mean that grandparents have to go through the day alone. Social interaction is a dominant contributor to mental health, especially during pandemics. In particular, technology can allow anyone to remain in touch with relatives and friends.
Make sure to devote some time to help seniors master how to use tools like messaging apps and video chat software. It can take some time, especially since older people are not digital natives, but most people eventually become proficient with technology.
It’s tough, but social distancing measures demand great sacrifices. However, these methods are here to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19. More than ever, senior citizens need love and support during these difficult times, so be there for them.