An indisputable fact amid the various rumors circulating about COVID-19 is that the elderly and the aging population are at risk of severe disease if coronavirus is acquired. While there is no evidence that the elderly are more likely to catch it, in comparison to the younger population, however, if the infection does occur, it is likely to have severe consequences.
So, what should older people do during coronavirus pandemic? Read on to find out:
1.Stick to the CDC guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a current set of guidelines for a geriatric population that should be followed by the older people during corona. This includes: frequent hand washing for twenty seconds, wearing protective gear when in contact with a suspected patient, disinfecting objects, using hand sanitizers frequently, and most importantly, practicing social distancing.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom, chief of geriatrics at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, people assume that if they have their underlying condition under control, they are out of danger. However, older people who have some chronic disease should take extra precautions even if they are stable.
Specialists agree that most of the older population often has multiple chronic issues—such as hypertension, ischemic heart disease, diabetes etc. and these chronic issues can make it harder for their bodies to fight the COVID-19. This virus can make it harder for the organs to keep up with the demands of the infection.
In the UK, the health secretary Matt Hancock, has advised for everyone over the age of 70 to stay at home for at least 12 weeks. These rules have not come into force yet, but these decisions were taken for the safety of older people during corona, as unfortunately, the mortality rate is quite high in the aging population for COVID-19.
2. What is the level of risk?
Experts say that older adults is anyone over the age of 60 years. In this age group, caution needs to be exercised to stay away from disease. Because the immune system is weakened with age and the older people during corona are more prone to catching the virus.
This risk increases even more in people over the age of 80 years. According to a report published in JAMA, the rate of mortality in about 72000 Chinese COVID-19 patients was around 2.3 percent. However, the rate was significantly higher—about 15 percent, in people over the age of 80 years.
3. What safety measures to take?
Dr. Carla Perissinotto, an associate professor of Geriatric Division, in University of California-San Francisco’s medical unit, all non-essential outdoor activity for the elderly should be cancelled—including doctor’s appointments. With a lot of sick patients coming in with COVID-19 infections, it is better to avoid going to the doctor’s for a while.
Even for essential appointments, consider dealing with it remotely—through phones, video calls etc., instead of stepping out of the house. The CDC recommends to stock up on some essential items in the home, to minimize the trips to the grocery stores.
These can include essential everyday items like detergent, toothpaste, etc. You don’t need to step out of the house for getting medicine even. Just order it online or through a delivery service.
For multigenerational living conditions, the elderly should avoid sharing utensils etc. with the people in the house who have frequent colds. If possible, sick members of the family should be allotted a room, so they do not infect everyone. Additionally, proper hand hygiene should be practiced by everyone to decrease the risk of disease spread.
4. What to do in case of an outbreak?
All the high-risk groups, including the older people, in corona pandemic should practice strict social distancing. In case of an outbreak, people who believe they are sick should self-isolate themselves.
In a region with suspected outbreak, it is better for the older people to avoid places where crowds can gather.
Similarly, poorly ventilated rooms and buildings should also be avoided, as the risk of transmission is higher in such places. The family of the older individuals should ensure that they are taking all precautions to avoid disease.
The duty also lies on the family members to ensure that the elderly do not feel cut off, if social isolation is needed. Keep in touch remotely if you have to, but do make sure that the elderly person in your household does not feel lonely or depressed.
For the younger people, if they come in contact with a COVID-19 patient, they could be potential carriers. Therefore, they should avoid seeing the more susceptible older people in their family or house.
5.What if you are diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you think you, or someone in your house is having suspicious symptoms, then call the healthcare services set up by the government, on their helpline, and wait for them to come to you. You shouldn’t step out of the house to seek medical care, and certainly not expose yourself to other people.
Healthcare professionals are likely to advise you to stay at home until recovery, unless severe, life-threatening symptoms are seen, in which case urgent medical care should be sought.