Data from China on the first 44 000 Coronavirus patients showed that the death rate in those aged 80 and over is nearly 15%, and 8% among those aged 70 to 79. In South Africa, the median age of those who have passed away after being infected by the virus, is 64.
As people age, their immune system gets weaker, leaving older people more vulnerable to succumbing to the virus – especially if they have underlying health conditions like heart disease, hypertension, respiratory disease and diabetes.
For this reason, elders are advised to stay at home if at all possible.
Whilst isolation reduces the risk of Covid-19, it can also lead to a host of other problems – including loneliness, depression and, for those with fading memories, a feeling of abandonment and confusion when beloved family and friends no longer visit. Here are some ideas to help get elders through an extended period under lockdown.
Not being able to go out, or participate in activities like attending church services and club meetings can make us lazy. It’s all too easy to sit for hours in front of the TV or lie in bed reading a book. But long periods of inactivity are bad for your circulation and heart.
Make a point of getting up and walking around your living space for 5 minutes every hour. If you have a fitness band or smart watch, set it to remind you to take at least 250 steps every hour.
Try a new hobby
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Keep your brain occupied solving crosswords, sudukos, and other puzzles. Try creative activities like colouring in and crafts, or playing games like scrabble or chess online with a ‘virtual’ opponent.
It’s normal to feel lonely and isolated when you have no contact with your loved ones. Make full use of email, ‘face time’ video calls and phone calls to keep in touch with friends, family and relatives.
Stick to a well-balanced diet
It’s tempting to treat yourself to sweets, chips and chocolate when you’re feeling down. But healthy eating will improve your mood and physical wellbeing more in the long run, as well as helping to keep your immune system strong to protect you from illness.
If you just have to have your fix of burgers or pizza, only order hot food to be delivered to you from an authorised Level 4 restaurant supplier. Do not risk the purchase of cold food or food from an informal caterer who may not be following the strictest hygiene precautions, and may unknowingly increase your risk of exposure to the virus.
Take the necessary personal precautions
It is your personal responsibility to ensure that you follow the recommended guidelines for preventing Covid-19 infection.
- When you go out in public, wear a cloth mask that covers both nose and mouth
- Wash or sanitise hands frequently
- Practice social distancing (2m away from other persons) when shopping, visiting the clinic or using public transport.
- Wherever possible, stay at home; call on support staff to assist with shopping and collecting medicines.
- If you must go out, and need to use a taxi or public transport, do not enter the vehicle unless the driver and support staff are wearing masks. Avoid touching your face and sanitise your hands frequently. When you return home, remove your shoes and change your clothing. Have discarded clothing and masks washed before next use.
You also have the right to ask your carers to wash their hands and sanitise any items brought into your living space
Under Level 4 Lockdown regulations you are allowed to exercise between the hours of 6-9am. Try not to stay out for the full 3 hours as this increases the level of interaction you have with the general public and your risk to exposure.
Wear your mask at all times and plan your route to minimise contact with others (think less-busy walking routes). For safety reasons, please partner with another elder, but observe social distancing rules and remember that group activity is not permitted.
Once you return to the building, consider changing your clothing and airing your walking shoes in the hot sun. Sanitise thoroughly. Remember to always follow your building’s recommendations and rules.
Dealing with loss
Sadly it is likely that we will all face the loss of someone close to us as a result of this pandemic. In many cases, we may not have the necessary permits to attend funerals to say our Goodbyes. This is an extremely sad predicament and we urge those seeking a way to come to terms with loss, to speak to our support care team.
When it all gets too much
Frustration over lockdown restrictions, not being able to see loved ones, and anxiety about becoming infected with a deadly virus can suddenly seem overwhelming. Depression, even suicidal thoughts surface when you believe that the situation will never get better, and that life will never return to normal.
Should you, or someone close to you suffer such feelings, please reach out for help. Speak to a Tafta social worker by dialing 031 332 3721 or emailing email@example.com.
For a suicidal emergency contact SADAG on 0800 576 567 or the 24 hour helpline 0800 456 789.
We are all in this together and we will make it through!