7 tips to minimise COVID-19 risk for elderly parents
The air is solemn these days. From the melancholy of those who lost their battles against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic to the constant fear of what the future holds for us, it is evident that none of us is spared from the emotional distress of these unrealistic times.
There are several worries on our minds including the adverse economic impact that we have to bear, the fear of losing our loved ones, and the struggle to keep our elderly safe. WHO has affirmed that due to several physiological changes that come with age and other potential comorbidities, older people are more at risk of developing serious illness if they get infected from the coronavirus.
It’s natural to feel concerned for our ageing parents and grandparents these days as the threat of them getting infected by the fast-spreading COVID-19 looms on our heads.
An immunologist from the Arizona College of Medicine, Dr Janko Nikolich-Zugich says that older people face trouble reacting to microorganisms they haven’t encountered before.
However, besides the depressing news of surging cases and deaths that we hear all day, there is some good news as well that manages to spark hope and positivity. Several elderly patients around the world have recovered from COVID successfully against all odds. One such news came from Portland, Oregon, where a World War II veteran, named William “Bill” Lapschies, has beaten the coronavirus at the age of 104.
How to care for elderly relatives
Caring for the older people in your family is understandably a tough task these days as you might have additional responsibilities of other family members, work, and house chores. You might be confused about what extra measures you can take to safeguard your parents’ wellbeing during these tough times. This blog is intended to assist you in that journey by giving detailed guidelines of what you can do.
If you too want your elders to be safe during this pandemic, follow these tips to minimise their risk of getting affected by the Coronavirus.
1. Stock up on their necessities
In old age, people require more necessities like their medicines, light snacks, groceries, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products. Buy at least 2 months of stock for them so that they do not need to go out themselves to buy their necessities.
This is even recommended by the CDC as the elderly are the ones who are most vulnerable to exposure. Ensure they have masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers at home.
2. Frequently disinfect their homes
According to a study, 66% of people aged 70 and over have at least one underlying health condition, increasing their risk of getting a severe impact from COVID-19.
This explains the need for proper sanitization, especially in the homes of older people. Experts are nowadays emphasizing more and more on the need to keep our surroundings clean and disinfected. Whether your parents or grandparents live with you, or in their own homes, you must ensure adequate measures to disinfect any surfaces they touch more often. Keep in mind that the virus can live on a surface for as long as 3 days, hence wiping off the surfaces is the only solution to minimize the risk.
Do not forget to clean their medical equipment, their walkers or canes, handrails of the entire home, and washrooms as well. If the disinfectant you are using contains bleach, then proper ventilation must be ensured otherwise, the fumes may trigger breathing difficulties.
Keep a few packs of disinfectant wipes for them in their bathroom, on their bedside, and in the kitchen. Ask them to habitually wipe surfaces before use if they can do it feasibly. Especially their phone, which is one of the most touched objects.
Changing bed sheets and pillow covers every four days is recommended. Make sure you wash their bedding separately with warm water, preferably using a washing machine.
3. Encourage them to maintain their personal hygiene
Counsel your aged parents on the need to maintain hygiene. Do not do so in an authoritative tone, as that may annoy them. Talk in a caring, respectful manner about frequent hand washing, and other cleanliness measures like changing clothes and taking a bath every day. Keep tabs on the basic things that need to be taken care of, like trimming off the nails and laundry.
Never mix their laundry with the rest of the family members’ clothes. Run a separate cycle for the clothes of the elderly.
4. Make sure you have a backup plan for their proper care
These times are highly uncertain, and you need to plan for any setback that might affect your older ones’ well being. If you live with them and bear the responsibility of caregiving, then you need to make alternative arrangements if God forbid you to fall ill. Nominate a close relative, a neighbour, or a friend who will attend to your elderly while you are not available to do so.
Also, if your parents live alone, like for example, if they live in Buffalo and you are elsewhere, one of the safest options would be finding paid caregivers in New York State and hiring them immediately. In this way, you can cater to their every need round the clock.
During the pandemic phase, keeping them in an assisted facility away from home could be risky as they could be exposed to the virus over there. Whatever decision you make, just make sure to stay connected and talk to them and the caregiver many times throughout the day.
5. Give them an immune-boosting diet
As we age, our body’s ability to produce T cells that fight against the viral attacks becomes significantly less. Moreover, our antibody making cells grow old and become less capable of producing antibodies. Hence, our bodies have little tendency to fight back a virus, especially a new one like COVID-19. This translates into elder people being under the constant risk of getting infected and developing complications from the coronavirus
Neil Ferguson of Imperial College of London’s research predicts that the chance of severity of symptoms increases with age. As the Covid-19 virus is ready to attack us, we can combat it through a strong immune system. Even older people can do so if they eat an immune-boosting diet regularly!
Add foods that are rich in Zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene in the diet of your family, including the older members. Vegetables like beetroots, bell peppers, spinach, kale, mushrooms, and broccoli help build a wall of immunity. Keep some jars of flax seeds, nigella seeds, and almonds on the dining table so that these can be consumed regularly.
You should also make sure your parents and grandparents eat fruits with Vitamin C, such as papaya, oranges, kiwi, and guava. Not only that would help them fight off diseases, but it will also give them other health benefits like aiding in digestion and avoiding vision loss as well.
Include lots of garlic, ginger, lean meats, and whole grains to their diet. Lookup for recipes that can be adjusted according to their taste. Make cooking a fun experience by asking their advice and tips on any particular recipe.
One more tip is to give them immunity-enhancing teas daily like ginger and turmeric tea, chamomile and mint tea, or tea infused with black elderberries.
6. Help them stay positive and motivated
Stress and anxiety will impact their immunity and mental health alike, so it is your job to help them stay positive and hopeful.
I would highly suggest you ensure that your aged parents and grandparents watch less news these days as that could lead them into depression. Avoid discussing the negative impact of Covid-19 on the elderly and its overall effect on the future of the economy. There should be harmony among family members. Even if a dispute takes place, try not doing it in front of them. In short, keep them away from all kinds of stress.
Help the aged access online services like spiritual sermons and motivational speeches. Connect them to friends and family so that they do not feel isolated. Playing indoor games, watching good movies, and going through old family photos will help to keep their mental health stable.
7. Consult their doctor over the phone
There is a possibility that the elderly you are responsible for is facing a health condition for which they may need regular checkups. Monitor their health frequently, and check if anything is unusual, which may need to be evaluated by the doctor.
To avoid the risk of exposure by visiting a hospital or the doctor’s clinic, avail the telemedicine facility, and consult with their doctor over the phone. This way, you can get a prescription for them safely without taking them outside.
Old people are frail, so worrying for them to be safe during this time is natural. With some compassion and responsible thinking, you can steer them safely through this pandemic.
After the risk of Covid-19 is over, you can also plan a nice trip with your parents or grandparents. In fact, preplan it with them to instil hope in them and yourself.