India is currently battling the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all age groups across the country. However, the older population is more susceptible to the disease owing to their age, decreased immunity, and comorbidities. As a result of their increased vulnerability to contract the infection, the elderly are feeling more scared and anxious.
If you have a family member who is above the age of 60 years, here’s how you can guide and motivate them to follow the right measures to prevent getting infected with COVID-19.
Prevention of COVID-19 in The Elderly
1. Make sure they stay at home. It is important that the elderly maintain physical distancing from others. You can help them do so by:
Managing their outside errands such as grocery shopping, buying medicines, etc., or arranging for things to be delivered at their doorstep.
Limiting any in-person visits which are not necessary at this time to the elderly.
Helping them stock up on essentials such as food and medicines for a few weeks so they can avoid stepping out.
2. Help them stay connected. The fear of contracting the disease and the isolation due to physical distancing can make the elderly feel alone and distressed.
With lockdown and other restrictions in place, they may also miss their daily activities like going to the park, a place of worship, or to the supermarket. Here are some tips to help them stay connected:
You can make them communicate with their family members, friends, and social acquaintances on the phone, through voice or video calls. This will reduce their feelings of isolation and anxiety.
You can encourage them to connect and talk with neighbours from their balconies, if possible. Ensure they wear a mask and are not standing outside in the balcony for too long. This way they can see their friends and neighbours and feel close to them.
3. Avoid unnecessary medical visits. Many elderly people have regular check-ups scheduled for various health conditions.
It is advisable to postpone all non-urgent visits to the doctor to minimize the risk of infection, which is usually high in places like a hospital or clinic.
Help them connect to a doctor, if needed, through phone calls and teleconsultation appointments (the practice of caring for patients remotely), to address any pressing concerns.
4. Get them vaccinated. Although vaccination does not rule out the chances of getting COVID-19, it may reduce the severity of the infection.
Getting the elderly vaccinated may help to allay their fear and anxiety of contracting the infection and its complications during these uncertain times.
Many elderly people might not be aware of the steps to be taken for getting vaccinated. You could help them register and book a vaccination slot and also drive them to the vaccination center on the appointment date.
Assure them that taking the jab is safe and they might experience some mild side-effects like fever, pain and swelling at the injection site, etc. These usually subside after 2 days and there is nothing to worry about.
5. Set up emergency contacts for them. Add contact numbers of family members, doctors, and hospitals on their phones so they know whom to contact in an emergency.
Even if you are the primary caregiver, it is advisable to introduce them to another person living nearby who they can contact if you are away or have fallen ill yourself.
Taking these steps will make them feel better prepared and less troubled during the coronavirus second wave.
6. Look after their nutrition. Nutrition plays an important role in determining their overall health and immunity (the body’s ability to protect itself against foreign agents such as viruses and bacteria).
Ensure that the elderly are eating nutritious food that helps them stay healthy and fight the COVID-19 infection.
Whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and probiotics (bacteria that are helpful for the body) help build stronger immunity and should be included in their daily diet.
The digestive system of the elderly may have slowed down because of their advanced age. Thus, keep their meals home-made, fresh, and light, such as a khichdi (a porridge of rice and lentils) or daliya (a dish made of broken wheat). These are nutritious and easy to digest foods.
7. Take care of their mental health. The elderly are more prone to mental health issues like depression during this second wave.
They are also concerned about the well-being of their family.
If you are living with them then,
Check in frequently with them to ensure that they are feeling fine.
Try to make their surroundings bright, and well-lit to cheer them up.
Keep them involved in various discussions and activities around the house so that they do not feel isolated and anxious.
Encourage them to perform simple indoor exercises like walking and yoga to help boost their mood.
If you are not living with them, call them over the phone or on a video call and check on them regularly.
Most importantly, give them the confidence that they need not panic, and help will be available to them in case they need it. If they notice common symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc., they must immediately contact their caregiver, doctor, or go to the nearest hospital.
1. 2021. Coronavirus and COVID-19: Caregiving for the Elderly. [online] Available at: <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-caregiving-for-the-elderly> [Accessed 27 April 2021].
2. Unicef.org. 2021. Caring for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. [online] Available at: <https://www.unicef.org/india/stories/caring-elderly-during-covid-19-pandemic#:~:text=Limit%20in%2Dperson%20visits.,you%20aren't%20going%20anywhere.> [Accessed 27 April 2021].
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