According to experts, the new coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, can cause respiratory infections ranging from mild to life-threatening, with senior citizens being particularly vulnerable because of their depleted immunity and already prevalent ailments. Dr. Vijay Kumar, Assistant Professor, Geriatric Department, All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) says that people over the age of 60 may also have more trouble recovering from COVID-19 respiratory disease, especially those who have underlying conditions like asthma, liver diseases, diabetes, heart problems, hypertension or some other such disease. So, it becomes even more important to take care of older adults to protect them and keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips released by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, to help seniors stay healthy during the pandemic.
According to Dr. Vijay Kumar, Assistant Professor, Geriatric Department, All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS), those who are assisting the seniors must watch out for some common symptoms in them like fever, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, headache, chills, loss of taste or smell. They may even report gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhoea, he said. In case of any of these symptoms seniors must be provided medical help. However, he stresses that they should not be taken to the doctor's office or the emergency room straight away as they may catch the virus there if they haven't already. He suggests, calling the doctor for advice on what to do and where to get tested.
It is a must for elderly people to stay on track when it comes to diet, and this is where people who are taking care of them must help them. Feed them healthy food to help them stay fit. Add green vegetables, pulses, and seasonal fruits like mango, watermelon, and honeydew melon and other antioxidant-rich food in their diet. Ensure that they take their previously prescribed medicines as required. Also, make it a habit for them to drink at least 3 litres of water every day as this will help them maintain good health, says Dr. Kumar.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home and in the room of the senior citizen. This includes doorknobs, countertops, light switches, remote controls, refrigerator handles, computer keyboards, phones, faucets, toilets.
Do not go near senior citizens and do not touch them without washing hands. Ensure the elders are washing their hands regularly too. Maintain utmost standards of hygiene around them and cover nose and mouth adequately using a tissue or cloth while attending to a senior citizen.
Do not keep senior citizens completely bed-bound, says Dr. Kumar. He says that social distancing may affect routines in ways that can compromise the strength of older adults as most of them are used to taking walks outside. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining good habits, including sufficient sleep and exercise. Simple exercises at home may be beneficial in the current times as it can help boost the body's immune functions, decrease inflammation and have mental and emotional benefits, he says.
Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, even under ordinary circumstances and with an add-on fear of a new disease without a proven treatment or vaccine, and social isolation makes it even harder, says Dr. Kumar. Depression, anxiety, and sadness are all very common emotions in this type of a situation and so it is vital to be vigilant about the psychological state of seniors. He suggests calling them regularly and checking on them a few times in a day. He also suggests encouraging the senior citizens to take up hobbies like reading, playing music and painting.
Dr. Kumar suggests that youngsters must help older people in their neighbourhood who are living alone to procure groceries and essentials for home. Be ready to lend a helping hand in case a health emergency arises, he advises, 'You can also offer them fresh home-cooked meals.'