How to take care of the elderly in the pandemic

Practical tips on protecting our senior citizens from the dreaded Covid-19

Illustration from Freepik

The current global health emergency has had medical professionals, experts, and scientists racing against time to save people’s lives and also uncover more knowledge about the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), including possible treatment, medications, as well as a vaccine.

While no one is immune from the virus, some groups carry higher risks of infection and an increased chance of dying from the ailment. It becomes all the more vital to identify the vulnerable groups to better protect them from the deadly disease.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a majority of casualties from the initial outbreak in China occurred among adults aged 60 and above. Italy, a country with one of the world’s oldest populations and also one of the most affected by the outbreak, found that the average age of patients who died from the outbreak is 81.

When a person reaches 70 years old, there is a steep decline in immune functions, making the elderly more likely to suffer from infection and develop related complications, various studies revealed.

As people age, the body’s immune system begin to weaken. This results in a decrease in white blood cell count. These cells also begin fail in identifying new pathogens.

Furthermore, the malady exhibits a behavior of damaging immune cells that is supposed to overcome the virus, making the senior citizen’s immune system more susceptible to it.

Older people are much more vulnerable against Covid-19, and those with pre-existing health problems are at an even greater risk. The pandemic means that it would be even more difficult to care for the elderly, and with the lockdown and quarantine all over the world, it becomes even harder to reach out to those who live far away. The least we can do is to reassure them and make the senior citizens realize they are not alone.

Here are practical tips from Dr. Marc Evans M. Abat, internist-geriatrician and consultant director of the Center for Healthy Aging of the Medical City, Ortigas on how we can help protect our elderly from the virus.

Regardless if you have an elderly at home, it is best to keep your surroundings and yourself well sanitized. Even when you have been tested negative with the virus or you believe you are Covid-free, be careful when approaching a senior citizen as no one can tell for sure whether one is asymptomatic or presymptomatic. Observe social distancing at all times. For those living with the elderly take into consideration how often you or family members go outdoors. If even just one from the household goes out frequently, everyone should wear a face mask even when at home.

Communicate with the them whenever possible. Educate the elderly about the virus, and ensure that they have enough correct information about the disease.

The health crisis has taken a toll on the mental health of most people. Converse and connect with the elderly and be wary of their mental wellness. If you and your grandparents are living separately, check up on them from time to time. Being present even if it is just online means a lot.

Keep them preoccupied by teaching the aged use technology. They will need all the social interactions and the entertainment on the internet. Also encourage the seniors to take on hobbies whether old or new.

Aside from mental health, mind their physical state. Physical exercise, proper diet, and taking multivitamins is highly recommended for the elderly. Never miss a flu, pneumococcal, or any of their recommended vaccinations. And do store enough of their medications at home.

Our grandparents might find it difficult to approach their doctors for regular check-ups, so get them in touch with physicians’ online or find a way for them to be able speak to specialists so that they can be sure of their health conditions.