How to Protect Older People From the Coronavirus
People over 60, and especially over 80, are particularly vulnerable to severe or fatal infection. Amid the uncertainty swirling around the coronavirus pandemic stands one incontrovertible fact: The highest rate of fatalities is among older people, particularly those with underlying medical conditions. Of the confirmed cases in China to date, nearly 15 percent of patients over 80 have died. For those under 50, the death rate was well below 1 percent.
There is no evidence yet that older people are significantly more likely to acquire the coronavirus than younger people. But medical experts say that if people over 60 are infected, they are more likely to have severe, life-threatening disease, even if their general health is good. Older people with underlying medical conditions are at particularly high risk. Experts attribute some of the risk to a weakening of the immune system with age.
This leaves older people and their families wondering what extra precautions they should take. Several best practices have been recommended by the World Health Organization, geriatricians and infectious diseases specialists. Here are some steps to reduce the risk of contracting the virus:
Familiarise yourself with guidelines and follow them.
Geriatricians recommend their patients to adhere to current guidelines from W.H.O., a litany of advice that has become all too familiar: Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) or clean them with alcohol-based hand gel; avoid handshakes; stay away from large gatherings; clean and disinfect objects that are touched frequently; and avoid public transportation and crowds. Stock up on supplies. Cruises are out, as is non-essential travel. Visits with grandchildren are ill-advised.
People are wrong to assume that if an underlying condition is well managed with treatment, they’re out of danger. Even those with conditions that are stable should take extra precautions. For example, diabetes can make it harder to fight infection, and underlying heart or lung disease may make it more difficult for those organs to keep up with demands created by a serious Covid-19 infection.
Have a talk with home carers.
Millions of vulnerable persons of all ages receive care in their homes. This is delivered by a home care work force of approximately 2 million people. For many older adults, this means a steady parade of home carers trooping through the door, some more mindful of hygiene than others.
People should have conversations with their caregivers about hygiene. Double-check that carers are washing their hands or using hand gel. Any equipment they bring in, should be wiped down with disinfectant. And make sure they are feeling healthy.
The nursing home conundrum.
Around 416,000 people, mostly older, are in nursing homes in the UK, a fraction of the 13 million elderly people over age 65. Given the rash of deaths caused by the virus, nursing homes are on high alert. Many have gone into full lockdown mode. Many nursing homes have received strict guidelines to bar all visitors, making exceptions only for compassionate care, such as end of life situations.
Many care establishments are now offering to put residents in touch with family members via FaceTime or solutions such as miiCUBE, an assistive technology developed by miiCARE.
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