Elderly Care In Times Of COVID-19: Here's What You Need To Ensure
It is important for the caregivers to check on the elderly and be sensitive to their unique mental health needs. We should not forget that the elderly has sacrificed a lot for the young generation and now it is our time to repay the debts by just showing them love, gratitude and appreciation.
Senior citizens need optimum nutrition and some kind of physical exercise on an everyday basis
- COVID-19 and lockdown has been a difficult time for the elderly
- Poor immunity and co-morbidities put them at higher risk of COVID-19
- Caregivers must ensure good physical and mental health of elderly
Senior citizens of the country have come out to be one of the most vulnerable groups during this COVID-19 pandemic. Not much is being said or written about what challenges our older population is facing in the current scenario. One of the most basic challenges is shortage of domestic help. Most of the domestic workers have headed towards their hometowns and it has become difficult for the elderly to manage the household chores. With the current restrictions it poses challenges to balance health and domestic work. Adding to this, it is difficult for them to pay their bills and taxes as not many of them are savvy with the online transactions.
COVID-19: Why elderly are at higher risk of coronavirus
Lower immunity levels and co-morbidities put the elderly population at a higher risk of coronavirus disease. The lockdown has led to a body blow to the elderly across the country. Though video consultations are available, still they are missing the healing touch of their doctors at this time. While pharmacies and chemists fall in the category of essential services and have been exempted from the lockdown, some elderly are facing logistical issues in accessing health services and care.
The financial dependence on the family members has also claimed to be one of the primary reasons for the bitter relations in the family. A lot elderly complain that they have no space or less space for themselves due to the 24-hour home stay of other family members.
Taking care of their mental health is important
But the most negative impact is on the mental health and psychological well being of these individuals. The pandemic has posed restrictions on the mobility and their social life is at a complete halt. Walks to their nearby parks keep them healthy and engaged but the social distancing is proving to be a social isolation leaving them depressed, aggressive and resentful. Even the online interactions and video calls are not sufficient as they are not conditioned with them and it is difficult for them to adjust to the changing times.
Even if the elderly stay with the family, they still feel psychological loneliness and isolation. This is because they are neglected by their family members and are at the receiving end of the discriminatory behaviour that enhances their overall frustration levels. Also, a vast majority of them are now afraid of meeting or interacting with anyone. While the forceful stay at home has brought many of them physically closer to their children and grandchildren, a majority still feel that they have not been able to bridge the generational gap. Their relationship is getting deteriorated with their family members during the period due to lack of communication, personal ego, interests and attitude.
Due to lockdown, there is an increase in dependency for their basic needs that has even resulted in losing their self esteem and dignity. Besides this anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, lack of activity and lack of exercise have also been the important factors for disturbed psychological well being. All these problems double up when the elderly lives alone.
Caregivers must help the elderly
It is the responsibility of the caregivers to lend a helping hand to the senior citizens. The elderly population is dependent on others for support and functional needs such as cooking and personal care. Senior citizens need adequate sleep, optimum nutrition and some kind of physical exercise on an everyday basis. It is essential to ensure that their sleep cycle is not disturbed due to the changes in the household because of the factors associated with social distancing. Their daily diet must have a combination of essential proteins and minerals. Caregivers can use technology to set up a mechanism for daily household chores, with online groceries apps that can deliver at their doorsteps.
The elderly also have a lack of knowledge about the essential services. It is important to raise awareness about the available services in the community and how they can safely and privately access these services. Maintaining social connections is also important. Some older people may be familiar with digital methods and others may need guidance in how to use them.
If the caregiver does not live with the elderly, then a help may be taken from neighbours to check on them once every day. It is important that the emergency numbers should be kept handy in the caregiver's and elderly mobile phone so that help can be received in the case of any emergency. Enjoying recreational activities together is a good way to bond. Activities like watching a movie or looking through photo albums together would in turn make them feel relaxed, rejuvenated and something to look forward to each day. Another way is to involve the family's senior members in the household activities as much as possible. Their help in such basic activities will let them stay occupied and also give a sense of accomplishment to them. Moreover, taking their inputs in important decisions would make them feel wanted and heard. It is really important to respect their thoughts and feelings that they derive out of their life experiences and wisdom accumulated over the years. Most importantly, getting exposed to the concerning news around worsening situation for longer durations can create anxiety and fear in seniors' minds. Creating a positive atmosphere would help them remain calm and positive.
All of these are surely the responsibilities of the caregiver, but most important is to build the trust in the elderly. It is of utmost importance for them to realize that they are significant and the caregiver is available to them in person or is just a call away. It is important for the caregivers to check on the elderly and be sensitive to their unique mental health needs. We should not forget that the elderly has sacrificed a lot for the young generation and now it is our time to repay the debts by just showing them love, gratitude and appreciation.
(Dr. Komal Chandiramani, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women, University of Delhi)
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