Currently, the healthcare workers are battling on the front lines of the pandemic, helping to care for and treat patients with COVID-19 as best as they can. Seniors and the aging population, with their increased susceptibility to the Coronavirus’s severe effects, are especially challenging to care for during this outbreak. With so many individuals part of this at-risk group, finding alternative options to better care for our elderly population is essential.
Social Isolation Can Be Dangerous, Especially for Seniors
In an attempt to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, many states have mandated a shelter in place order. Many have also been advised to self-isolate if they are part of the at-risk group, which includes folks over the age of 65.
While staying home and away from other contaminated persons is the best advice for seniors to follow right now, healthcare workers need to be on the lookout for other concerns that may result from weeks of self-isolation. Some conditions seniors may face that contribute to social isolation during this time include the following:
- Losing touch with close family and friends: With the Coronavirus putting a lot of stress on households and forcing many to limit contact with others outside of their own homes, seniors are left by themselves with little to no social interactions. This can lead to intense feelings of loneliness and unwantedness.
- Fear of falling: Aging folks can develop fears around their safety while outside, which can decrease the want to leave their homes, even if it’s a venture into their own backyards.
- No form of transportation: Many seniors don’t currently have a driver’s license or even a vehicle, which makes getting important necessities like groceries and vital medications more difficult and can also lead to long stretches stuck inside.
The health risks that come from prolonged isolation can be very dangerous for seniors, and it’s important that healthcare workers find ways to keep seniors connected to the outside world. Loneliness in seniors has been shown to lead to depression, poor hygiene, and even poor nutrition, all of which can lead to even more serious complications. It’s imperative, perhaps now more than ever, to be aware of the effects isolation is having on aging folks. If necessary, talk to the seniors in your life about mental healthcare. Medicare covers counseling and psychiatry appointments, and talking to a mental health professional can go a long way in counteracting the effects of isolation.
Stop and Smell the Roses
In a post-COVID-19 world, helping our senior population can be anything from setting up a virtual meeting with their family members or friends to asking neighbors to create a grocery store rotation list for seniors in the neighborhood so they can get much-needed supplies. It’s also important that seniors maintain some sort of exercise routine while in quarantine.
Avoiding long periods of inactivity, when possible, is not only beneficial to seniors’ mental health but may be important to combat any current conditions they had pre-pandemic. Simple walks around their neighborhood (with proper protective equipment, of course) can give seniors the chance to get outside, chat with neighbors, and keep their bodies healthy.
The Added Risk of Pre-Existing Conditions
As much as Coronavirus has changed our everyday lives, for seniors with underlying health issues, life has become an even more dangerous battlefield to navigate. It’s become even more stressful for the healthcare field to manage both the pandemic and patients’ existing conditions.
For example, before the Coronavirus swept across the globe, asthma was a fairly simple condition to control with medicated inhalers. In the past, asthma wasn’t always so easy to treat, but it was a hurdle the healthcare industry worked hard to overcome.
However, now as we slowly begin to understand what happens inside the body when infected with COVID-19, those with asthma should be particularly monitored as the virus has been shown to have active viral replication in the upper respiratory tract and cause nearly all patients to develop a cough and experience a shortness of breath. Moreover, COVID-19, in later stages, can lead to bilateral pneumonia. This is extremely dangerous for seniors with asthma or other respiratory issues, so reducing their chance of exposure is imperative.
As healthcare workers, the Coronavirus has presented an entirely new set of unknowns, and admittedly, scary concerns for the aging population. As the world navigates this new challenge, taking extra precautions while seniors self-isolate throughout the coming future will help keep this at-risk group as safe as possible.