Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause infections such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In 2019, coronavirus was identified in China as the cause of a disease outbreak. According to research, 60 years and above, with medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, lung disease, and a heart condition, etc. are at a higher risk of getting infected. India with a population of 106 million elders is a cause of worry, specifically the ones who are living alone and are not well.
This Elder Abuse Awareness Day let us shed light on the struggles and sufferings of elders in their fight against COVID-19. Usually, in an epidemic of transmittable disease, the person infected was quarantined to protect those who are well, so that the rest of the people can carry on with their normal life. The majority of the population, including young adults and adolescents, will acquire immunity by having asymptomatic infection before this pandemic is over. The problem is that these asymptomatic individuals are likely to pass the infection to their elders in their household, workplace, etc.
There are many reasons why elders are at a high risk, age being a major factor along with illness and immunity which makes it difficult to fight off diseases. Elders are extremely vulnerable and if infected with COVID-19, have a fatal outcome. Therefore it is important to keep the elders safe and quarantined to keep them from getting infected but at the same time, making sure that they are not isolated from the family and don’t feel neglected and lonely.
Elders should stay at home until the epidemic is over and the government should also take safety measures for the elders to avoid the risk of exposure. Healthcare consultations should be done either telephonically or online to avoid the risk of infection.
The majority of elders admitted in the hospitals showed delayed recovery, increase cases of lung infections, and increased mortality rate. The need for ventilators and oxygen therapy was increased in elderly patients and their immunity was seriously affected.
The pandemic has shed light on the vulnerabilities of elders like infirmity, problems in mobility, immunity, and malnutrition. Loneliness and neglect for elders who are living alone and have no family members to take care of them. Elders having sensory problems cannot take proper precautions during this time, especially the ones suffering from chronic illness, as they have no one to take care of them or remind them of their medications, etc.
Social distancing is not a luxury for most of these elders, due to their economic condition, poor surroundings, and too many family members; elders face a great risk of contracting the virus. One of the most common problems faced by an elder is misinformation as the elders are not aware of recent and updated guidelines and data.
The psychosocial vulnerabilities like anxiety, uncertainty regarding the present and future, often leads to depression, stress, and insomnia. The majority of elders in the country are marginalized and the stigma of ageism is quite prevalent. Most people consider getting old, as losing their vitality, loss of beauty, fear of the unknown, and this humiliation can flare up during a crisis.
The pandemic has brought about fear and ambiguity, especially among older adults. The elderly have always relied on social connections and need it now more than ever. The elders need a helping hand to hold them and support them, but the outbreak of COVID-19 has made the social distancing the new norm, leaving the seniors to feel lonelier than ever.
Therefore it is important to not only pay attention to elder’s physical wellbeing but also their emotional wellness. Engaging them in activities and talking to them will not only make them happy but also make them feel loved and a lot less lonely.
The sudden onset of the pandemic has disrupted millions of lives in the country, but the seniors are the worst hit demographic. Most of these elders have lost their source of livelihood during the lockdown and are dependent on their family or on the generosity of their neighbors or strangers.
HelpAge India has been working relentlessly on the ground, providing Free Meals for Survival, Family Survival Kits, Protective and Hygiene kits to the elders and their community in the rural areas and urban slums, migrant workers and daily wage earner. HelpAge is also providing free medicines for elders and running its Mobile Healthcare Units as an ambulance for transportation of elder patients to hospitals.