As the world fight against COVID-19, elders are the most vulnerable. Since elders are at a higher risk of getting infected, families and caregivers are taking precautions to keep elders safe as a result, most elders find themselves isolated, especially the ones that are living alone. Due to COVID-19, people are asked to stay at home and practice social distancing;grandchildren cannot visit their grandparents as admonitory measure to avoid grandparent’s possible exposure to the virus. This unexpected variation in their regular humdrum and a lack of personal contact with elders can create stress and anxiety among children and elders alike.
According to World Health Organization “older age and underlying conditions increase the risk of severe infection”. There are about 106 million elders in the country and 53 million are very poor. Financial stability is not the only problem that the elderly faces today, due to lack of employment opportunities in the rural areas, many youths have migrated to the city for work, thus leaving their elderly parents at home, and due to the lockdown, these elders have no one to take care of them and are mostly dependent on their neighbors and others for support.
As India fights the pandemic, the economic costs of lockdown could be catastrophic, especially on the millions of poor. According to the recent analysis by the United Nations University, 104 million people in the country could fall below poverty line according to the World Bank determination which is 3.2 dollars a day for lower middle income countries. The continuation of the lockdown could further surge the number of India’s poor to 915 million.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shared information about the precautions to be taken for the elderly during the pandemic. Practicing social distancing is very important; however it does become difficult for the elders, especially the ones that are living alone. Loneliness amongst the elderly can often lead to depression and anxiety.
Nevertheless, there are number of things one can do to ease their elders and lessen their anxiety. It’s important to keep the elders informed about what’s happening around the world, and why social distancing is important. It is important to tell them that it’s just temporary and that once the virus has ceased, things will go back to normal.
It is important to listen to them, and reassure them that everything will be fine. By listening to them, and letting them express their feelings, you can lessen their anxiety. People, who are staying with their grandparents and elders in their family, can do a lot of fun activities together. Engage with them in activities, like playing board games, storytelling, take a walk with them and teach them something new.
Take a break from watching news, related to COVID-19 to help reduce stress and anxiety. Use activities such as reading, cooking and painting to keep elders engaged. Stress can also impact the immunity of elders which makes them even more vulnerable to the infection. Stress can also affect the mood, appetite and sleep patterns of elders. Elders, who live alone, not struggle with loneliness and depression but also basic facilities like food, utilities and hygiene.
Bridge the distance by making a call, make a cup of tea and have a nice long chat with your grandparent. A simple call can do wonders in lifting their spirits and telling them that you miss them and love them can improve their health and break them out of isolation. Offer to help them with groceries and other basic amenities which can save them a trip to the market. Put together a list of information and numbers to call to if they require help or support like, the grocery store, family doctor, emergency contacts of family, friends and neighbors.
In a time like this, we crave for human interaction even more. A small hello and a simple phone call can make a huge difference, especially for elders. Social Distancing does not mean disconnect.