Everyone is potentially at risk of developing serious complications after contracting the COVID-19 virus. Even previously healthy patients have developed serious symptoms that can permanently disable or even kill them. With that being said, there are certain types of people that are more at risk than others. Those with disabilities or a compromised immune system are particularly at risk. However, those most at risk of dying of the virus are the elderly. Italy, a country with a noticeably high number of elderly people, was one of the first countries to sustain a serious death toll due to its effects. The United States is rapidly heading towards a future with an unprecedented number of senior citizens. It’s estimated that by 2010, 5.5 million Americans lived to the age of 85 years old or beyond. The year 2050 will see this particular age group jump to 19 million Americans, at which point it will account for 5% of the total population. This means that a major number of Americans, many of whom already have problems with caring for themselves, will be left extremely vulnerable as this virus spreads. It’s important that these people are not only cared for in a manner that meets their needs on a regular basis; they also must be protected from contact with COVID-19. This means that caregivers, who already are taxed in their day to day lives, now have an additional issue to worry about.
Fortunately, there are ways in which senior citizens can receive the care they need, while still being kept safe. Many of these tips can also be applied to those with disabilities, who make up about 10% of the world’s total population, or 650 million people. Below, these tips and ideas will be explored further. Hopefully, some of them will help you in the future.
1. Take Advantage Of Technology
Many people who are taking care of their elderly loved ones don’t live with them or need to leave them to go to work. In fact, few people can really dedicate their entire day to taking care of their elderly loved ones. With that being said, you may be used to some degree of separation from your loved ones, but the pandemic has probably intensified this. It’s incredibly important that we socially distance in order to prevent the spread of the virus. It spreads incredibly quickly, and elderly people may catch it more easily than others. The same can be said of people who have compromised immune systems or people with disabilities. If you are unable to devote your entire life to caring for your aging loved one, you may have to separate more. Utilize technology, especially easy technology, to stay in touch. If your loved one doesn’t already have a smartphone, equip them with one so that you can use video conferencing technology to speak to them face to face. You may also want to attach a nanny cam within the house in order to watch your loved one and ensure that everything is okay. This is crucial for your peace of mind as well. Smart home technology like an Amazon Echo can also be installed. This can be done remotely, and this type of assistive technology can greatly aid in completing your loved one’s everyday chores and tasks. One thing you should also consider, of course, is creating a barrier so that you can visit if need be. This would involve keeping six feet of space between yourself and your loved one, both of you wearing masks, and for good measure, you wearing gloves as well. At this time, it can be difficult to understand exactly how the virus is spread.
2. Be Overly Cautious
Yes, you may find that you’re already paranoid about your own health. However, you need to take care of yourself and ensure that you’re checking your own symptoms every single day, and perhaps multiple times a day, especially if you have to see your loved ones in person. Keep a thermometer on you at all times, ideally a digital one. This way, you can check your own temperature multiple times a day. If you see any sign of a fever, you should not be seeing your loved one in person. One thing you should also consider is the fact that in general, COVID-19 symptoms are hard to pin down. While body aches could be a sign of something as common as arthritis or joint disease, which affects around 350 million people globally and 43 million around the United States, they could also be a symptom of COVID-19. Now is the time to be overly cautious and to distance yourself even if it seems like a lot of work. If you can’t check in on your loved one, you may want to ask a family member to help, or even hire a professional to assist.
3. Be Clear And Honest
At times, elderly people can experience memory difficulties or struggle with comprehending things, even if they don’t actually have dementia. This can make explaining the pandemic something of a struggle. While you may like the idea of comforting them or hiding the truth from them immediately, this isn’t a good idea. Your loved one needs to understand our new limitations, and how they can help you take the best possible care of yourself. Therefore, you need to be clear and honest, writing down instructions if need be and leaving notes and charts up around the house. You can also use voice notes to communicate restrictions and needs for your loved one, as well as daily matters that they made need to keep up with more now that you won’t be around as much.
There are a lot of different factors that may have led to you primarily caring for your loved one by yourself, rather than using professional help. However, one thing to consider as you do so is that if you need to seek assistance, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and depressed; roughly 40% to 70% of caregivers show some sign of depression. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Ask for help or pay for help, and make sure that your loved one pitches in where they can. It’s crucial right now that you have as many helping hands as possible. Together, you can ensure that your loved one stays safe.