The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all age-groups, but it is more challenging for the elderly. They are at a higher risk than the rest because of their compromised immune system, existing chronic illness, slower recovery rate, and reduced voluntary actions. Statistics show that death due to COVID-19 is higher in the elderly population (avg. for India being 60). This calls for increased attention to manage the health of the elderly. Some areas to address are:
Diet plays an important role in building strong immunity and developing a faster recovery rate. Include lots of antioxidant-rich foods in the form of fruits like citrus fruits, berries, amla and vegetables like pumpkin, carrots and spinach. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like walnuts, flax seeds, almonds and other nuts. should be incorporated. Good source of protein in the form of an egg, lentils should be included too.
Most elderly suffer from prevailing health conditions and also the ones that come with age like osteoporosis, joint pain, etc. Hence, along with healthy meals, prepare appropriate supplements for them.
Most elderly don’t consume enough liquids to avoid frequent urination. They also suffer from constipation. Apart from drinking adequate water, include healthy beverages like coconut water, buttermilk, lemonade, soups, lassi, etc. Most elderly have difficulty in chewing so fluid and semi-fluid diets should be incorporated.
With reduced palate and eating capacity, they should be given small, easily digestible food at frequent intervals instead of few, heavy meals. Include salads, fruits, and healthy desserts in between meals.
Many elders fail to maintain personal hygiene due to reduced motility, reflexes, and voluntary actions. During COVID-19 especially, personal hygiene is a top priority. Assist them in washing hands, cutting hair, and maintaining overall hygiene.
Limit hospital visits for checkups and instead adopt digital means and telecommunication with doctors. Instances may occur where a condition may be left undiagnosed. So, routine monitoring of parameters like blood pressure, temperature, and clear communication with the doctor is an essential step.
Social distancing should not be confused with social isolation. With many elderly living alone and far-off, they are more lonely than usual during the pandemic. Make sure to check on them regularly. Communicate with senior family members over a video call or phone calls. Help your elderly family and neighbors with groceries, medicines, and a regular reminder of necessities.
Prepare the elderly for emergencies beforehand. Arrange for contacts, speed-dials, and identify a person who could be reached in case of emergencies. Also, the emergency supplies should be kept handy and to report in case of any symptoms or conditions arise.
During these tough times let’s not neglect our elderly and reach out to them in the best way possible because they need us now more than ever.