Part of First Responders in the Pandemic
Would it not be of paramount importance for a caregiver to understand what makes Caring For The Elderly During The COVID-19 Pandemic challenging?
This post will show that all the problems of COVID-19 are the direct consequences of the underlying health conditions and the age of the senior citizen.
You will agree with me that it is better to start this discussion by explaining what COVID-19 is and what causes it. And then move to explain the general health conditions of the elderly that predispose them to be infected by COVID-19.
Covid-19 And The Causes.
Coronavirus is of course a virus, flu-like, and an upper respiratory infection.
According to the US CDC (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms/), it is caused by the infection with SARS-COV-2.
Care must be taken not to be confused with the symptoms because some of the symptoms of the Flu or Common Cold and COVId-19 are similar, making differentiating between the two very difficult.
Hence CDC warns against determining COVID-19 based on symptoms alone. So, testing is needed to confirm a diagnosis.
The main symptoms of the COVID-19 which those caring for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic should watch out for are congestion, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea.
Included are fatigue, cough, headache, chills, muscle pain, and sore throat. And patients continue to experience the symptoms three weeks after receiving the positive test.
It has been established that COVID-19 started in an exotic wild animal market in Wuhan, China. Note that a virus can be transmitted from an animal to a human only after mutation.
The virus was transmitted from animal to human at this market, then the world-wide transmission was from human to human. It will be interesting to know how?
Scientists have established that only close human contact like kissing, or droplets from coughing and sneezing, within six feet between transmitter and victim, can transmit the coronavirus from human to human.
The fluids or droplets from these activities are generally absorbed into the body through the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes.
The virus remains alive in the human body for several days.
The Underlying Conditions Of The Elderly People.
According to Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus…), the elderly are likely to have several chronic medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, severe obesity, serious lung diseases, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, asthma, kidney disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
It is only on rare occasions will an elderly not have at least one of these health conditions making caring for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelming.
Studies by eminent coronavirus experts and scientists show that these conditions hinder the body’s ability to cope or recover from any type of illness.
And US CDC has determined that the elderly in particular with any or all the conditions are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19, like acute respiratory distress syndrome and even acute lung injury.
The virus is also more likely to attack the heart. This may explain why many hospitals and clinics are seeing many COVID-19 patients dying of heart attacks.
COVID-19 And The Elderly
A representation of the COVID-19, the virus that caused the pandemic
Besides the physical deaths seen in hospitals here in the US and around the world, the study at the Cornell University (https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/04/why-covid-19-mild-some-deadly-others/) proved that due to underlying medical conditions, (enumerated above) patients that developed serious or fatal COVI-19 are disproportionately elderly people.
Here it is! But we want to know why?
This may be so because older immune systems are not efficient enough at clearing viral infections.
But Dr. Fred Pelzman, associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and associate attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, does not believe that that tells the whole story.
He felt that “Severe COVID-19 is driven not just by viral damage to cells but by a reactive “storm” of inflammation that harms the lungs and other vital organs.
There may be changes in different parts of the immune system from aging that make the middle-aged more vulnerable to this storm than younger patients, even if they are healthy and have no underlying medical conditions”.
Protecting The Elderly Against Covid-19
Numerous studies conducted in the US and other countries(discussed earlier), show that elder citizens, because of underlying health conditions, are at high risk of being infected by diseases (any diseases).
This poses a great challenge to those caring for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first step, as recommended by Dr. Norman Edelman, the chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, is to make sure elderly people stay away from anyone who has the flu or a bad cold.
To achieve this the elderly must be kept at home as much as possible and boosting their immunity against sickness.
Taking care of the elderly is a community responsibility. The elderly live in the community in their homes or a care facility.
Therefore, they depend on services and supports provided in their homes or in care facilities to maintain their health and independence.
Wherever they are being cared for the caretakers must be vigilant to prevent the introduction and spread of the virus.
We may have to ask ourselves what will force an elderly to leave his/her home and find himself mixing with the public?
1) Medication. Arrangements must be made to make sure all the medications and where possible extras are available.
If the elderly are cared for in a care facility, the loved one should keep a constant monitor on the health of the rest of the residents.
2) Food including water must be provided all the time and know what to do with perishables and recognizing the importance of hydration.
3) Medical supplies like oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care, etc. must be provided.
Besides, home caretakers, in particular, must keep a tab constantly on the day-to-day health conditions of the elderly, must be vigilant including constant examination or observation of the elder citizen. Check:
a) Any physical changes – like bluish lips or face?
b) Breathing: shortness, or difficulty breathing?
c) Pain – on any part of the body particularly in the chest; does the pain come and go?
d) Monitor cognition and general behavior and mood.
Face Mask 100 Pack, A Free Hand Sanitizer 8 Oz Included (Blue, 100 Masks)
At home or in a care facility – observe general hygiene protocol, wash the hands as often as possible particularly before touching the face or the eyes.
Wipe clean touched surfaces, including mobility and medical equipment used by the elderly person, such as walkers, canes, and handrails as soon as used.
If he/she must leave home the face mask must be worn all the time, avoid crowded places, and maintain physical distancing (this does not mean social isolation).
In this respect, technology can play a big role. A caregiver can help the elderly person to keep in contact with family and friends using the telephone.
Likewise, food, medication can be ordered online. The elderly do not need to engage in unnecessary visits or appointments.
Exposure, Symptoms, And What To Do Next
If you learn that you and or the elderly person might have been exposed to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or develops symptoms like shortness of breath, cough, fever, etc. call the family doctor, nurse helpline, or urgent care facility.
In case of a medical emergency like high fever, persistent cough, or shortness of breath, call 911.
It is advisable to have the contact details of these institutions handy.
With all these precautions, caring for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic will be a lot easier.
Experience has taught us that knowledge is indeed power.
For a successful caring of an older adult during this COVID-19 pandemic, a caregiver needs to understand what the COVID-19 is and how it is transmitted.
It is a virus that was transmitted from animals to humans in a market in Wahum, China, and then from humans to humans.
The human transmission is through liquid exchanged in close contact like during kissing or inhaled or swallowed droplets from sneezing, coughing, or breathing.
It has been shown by multiple sources all over the world that in any outbreak of any diseases or pandemic, the most at-risk population is the elderly because of the effects of old age on their systems which includes some underlying medical issues.
The CDC and other world scientists have mapped out the prevention protocol both for the young and the elderly.
These include what to do in case of exposure or emergency.
This post has a lot of information on these and the CDC website (given above), will be another good resource. For COVID-19 supplies go here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and learned a lot about COVID-19 – what it is, how it transmitted, and the prevention protocols. Please visit us again.
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