Corona Virus and Elderly: How Much Is the Risk Involved and Steps to Take Care of Your Parents, Elders

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a type of infection in the viruses family that was reported in 2019. COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan, China, but has now spread in all continents in the world. The World Health Organization has referred to it as a global pandemic.

Just like any other infection, some people are at higher risk of contracting it compared to others. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on 72,314 of those infected with coronavirus disease in an attempt to identify the mortality rate and groups of people who are at risk of being infected.

According to the study, 2.3% of the people with coronavirus disease died, and 51% of those with the infection were men. This percentage indicates that men are at higher risk of getting corona compared to women. 

Additionally, findings from the study showed that the elderly are more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus compared to any other group of people. The mortality rate is 3.6% for those aged 60 and above, and it increases to 15% for those who are 80 years and above.

Elderly Women Sneezing

But, 80% of coronavirus cases are mild. People with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease are more prone to being severely ill from the virus. The risk is high because these people already have problems with their lungs, which is the organ that coronavirus damages the most.

With that said, let’s dig deep into this 2020 monster.

A. Symptoms of coronavirus

Coronavirus symptoms range from mild to severe. The first symptoms usually include coughing, sore throat, having trouble breathing, experiencing shortness of breath, and fever. When the infection becomes severe, one can have pneumonia, kidney failure, severe lung damage, and death in some cases.

B. Why are the elderly at higher risk?

Senior citizens are more vulnerable to corona infection because their immune system is weak. Their bodies cannot fight diseases the same way they did when they were younger. This makes them prone to getting all kinds of illnesses, especially infectious ones. 

Many older adults also have other diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The virus, therefore, becomes severe and harder for an older person to fight off. 

Some older people live in retirement or nursing homes or places that are crowded. Infectious diseases like COVID-19 are bound to spread rapidly in such areas.

Senior citizens who are isolated or have difficulty moving around do not get all the information on coronavirus and the supplies they need, such as sanitizers and masks, to fight and help them protect themselves from the disease. Thus, they are more likely to be infected with it and become severely ill.

C. Precautions to reduce the risk of corona in senior citizens

There are coronavirus prevention measures you can take to lower your chances of getting the infection.

  • Stock up on what you need.
    For you to stay at home safely, you need supplies that you use daily. If there's medication you are taking, ask your healthcare provider to give you additional ones that you can use for a long time. Buy groceries and toiletries that will last for an extended period.
  • Stay at home
    When there's an infectious disease like coronavirus in your community, it is advisable to avoid contact with many people to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Stay away from crowds
    If you have to go out, avoid crowded areas. Going on cruise ships and air travel is not a good idea at this time. The more people there are in a location, the higher the risk of coronavirus transmission.
  • Tke everyday precautions
    There are things you can do daily to protect yourself from coronavirus. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water. It is advisable to do this for 20 seconds or more. Take hand-washing seriously, especially if you were out or are experiencing coughs and sneezes.

If you can’t access water and soap, a hand sanitizer will come in handy. But, ensure the sanitizer has 60% alcohol or more. When you are not within your house, keep a distance from other people.

Also, refrain from touching surfaces like handrails and elevator buttons that are touched by other people. Keep your hands away from your face. Ensure your home is clean and surfaces are disinfected, especially the ones that are used regularly, like tables, sinks, and toilets. Take in fluids throughout the day. Small sips work well too. The key is to ensure you are always dehydrated. 

D. Steps to take if you get sick?

You might still contract COVID-19 even after taking the necessary precautions, but a slit mistake happens. If this happens, don’t panic or leave your house. Get in touch with your doctor and explain the coronavirus signs and symptoms you are experiencing. You can go ahead and inform them that you suspect you might be having corona.

Your doctor will advise you on what to do based on the severity of your coronavirus infection symptoms. If they are mild, he or she might advise you to stay at home and recover. If not, then you might need to be taken to the hospital. 

If you are recovering from home, take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Take in lots of fluids to stay hydrated. Hydration helps to strengthen your immune system and regulate your body temperature, which is vital given that corona can be accompanied by fever. Stay at home to avoid infecting others. Keep in touch with your doctor, who will monitor your condition and know if you need to be hospitalized.

Lastly, remember to sneeze or cough into a disposable tissue, clean your hands frequently, and wear a face mask if you are living with other people.

E. Taking care of older adults with coronavirus

If you have parents, grandparents, or other elderly family members with coronavirus disease, it is vital to know how best to take care of them without putting yourself and others at risk. Some of the steps include those mentioned under precautions to reduce the risk of corona in senior citizens. The difference is that you might have to carry them out if you are the caregiver.

  • Ensure you have enough stock for medication and food. Aim for supplies that can last you two weeks or more.
  • Contact a doctor early on if the older person has chronic health issues like diabetes, liver, kidney, or heart disease.
  • Keep surfaces around the home clean.
  • Be in constant communication with the patient's doctor and follow their directives. If the doctor tells you to keep the patient in isolation until a certain time, be sure to do that. If you are told to take them to the hospital, for coronavirus test or treatment, follow those instructions. If you fail to follow instructions, it might result in the death of your loved one and the spread of covid to other people.
  • Always talk to your loved one and explain to them what's going on. Knowing what's happening will alleviate their fears and help them stay calm.
  • Limit visitations to avoid spreading the infection to other family members and friends.
  • Ensure you and the patient practice frequent and correct hand washing.
  • You need to plan for who would take care of you and the elderly patient if, for some reason, you get infected with corona.

F. Emergency signs to watch out for

Coronavirus infection can be mild or severe. That’s why it’s vital to know the emergency warnings to watch out for. When you experience these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately. The symptoms include your face or lips turning blue, having problems breathing, being confused, and experiencing chest pain that does not go away.

G. What you need to know if caring for an elderly relative

If you have an elderly relative, you need to understand that they have a higher risk of getting coronavirus and being seriously ill as a result. Therefore, you should take extra preventive measures to ensure they stay safe and know how to take care of them if they get infected.

Final Thoughts

If you are a senior citizen or you have an elderly relative, it’s crucial to have facts on coronavirus, as explained in this article. Older adults have lower immune systems, and some of them have chronic diseases too, which puts them at a higher risk of severely falling ill when they contract corona. That’s why you need to take precautions such as regularly cleaning your hands and avoiding crowded places to reduce the chances of this happening. If you happen to contract the disease, your family can take good care of you by listening to the doctor and taking preventive measures to help you recover and ensure the virus does not spread.

Dr. Rishab Sharma

Dr. Rishab Sharma MBBS, MD (Internal Medicine) He is associated with Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur. Dr. Rishab has wide experience in managing a variety of diseases, as well as managing critical care units in large government and corporate hospitals.

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