The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a number of challenges for the elderly, such as lack of physical contact with loved ones, anxiety and fear of illness or death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), older people, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer, face significant risk of developing severe illness due to COVID-19.
Therefore, taking care of the elderly during COVID-19 requires not only following precautions to reduce the risk of infection but to also cater for their mental health. In what is to follow, we will provide you with guidelines for taking care of elderly patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reducing the Risk of Infection
As a senior citizen, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to practice preventive measures such as:
- Wearing a mask whenever you interact with someone.
- Limiting your physical interactions with people as much as possible.
- Practicing social distancing (staying 6 feet away, which is about two arm lengths).
- Washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your un-sanitized hands.
- Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and things you often touch.
For an overview of precautionary measures to avoid the risk of infection, see this video by the Ministry of National Health Services Pakistan.
Additional Measures for Older People with Pre-existing Health Conditions
If an older adult is at home or at any caregiving facility (especially with pre-existing medical conditions like cardiovascular, lung, liver, and kidney diseases, diabetes, cancer, or a disability), the caregivers should try to ensure the following guidelines by the Ministry of National Health Services Pakistan:
- Persons with fever, cough, or any other infectious illness must not visit older individuals till they are symptom-free and completely recovered.
- Any healthy family member (with minimum outside exposure) should be preferentially designated for the care of older people at home.
- If possible, the caregiver should check the body temperature of the elderly at least twice daily.
- Develop a health plan for older people with chronic illness, consulting their healthcare providers regularly, with readily available healthcare providers' emergency contacts, and advancing directives.
- Ensure access to all medicines already in use and stock up for one to three months of all necessary supplies.
- Maintain the regular schedule and daily routine of older members with a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet, sleep, and exercise, and keep them in a properly ventilated room.
Elderly Patients Who Show Symptoms or Test Positive for COVID-19
If an older person feels unwell and has symptoms, he/she should be isolated from other residents in a separate room. These symptoms might include a fever of 37.5°or above, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath.
- Caregivers should immediately report the suspected case to the relevant health authorities or facilities and follow their instructions.
- Anyone isolated because of suspected COVID-19 infection and the caregiver or attendant looking after them should wear a mask and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- The isolation room should be in a relatively separate location, well-ventilated area.
- Restrict the movement and activities until symptoms have resolved.
- If health authorities require an older person to go to a designated facility for testing or treatment, public transport should not be used.
Helpline for Healthcare Professionals Caring for COVID-19 Patients
The Government of Pakistan has set up a helpline for healthcare professionals caring for COVID-19 patients. You can get expert advice via the helpline at +92-021-34862100. For more details see the video given below.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for the Elderly
Family members or caregivers should be aware of older people's mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Although affectionate personal communication can aid in relieving sadness, stress, confusion, and anxiety, it is always a good idea to talk to a professional if you feel or see any signs of mental health issues.
If you need Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS), call at:
Helpline number: 0800-77657
Timing: 09:00 am – 05:00 pm (Monday to Friday)
Languages: Urdu, Pashto
Helpline number: 0800-77678
Timing: 09:00 am – 05:00 pm (Monday to Friday)
Languages: Urdu, Brahvi, Balochi and Pashto
The Government of Sindh has also launched a teleconsulting service (1093) for the confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients to help them cope with the Coronavirus pandemic's psychological impact. This helpline functions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also read an article on our website about taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline
You can visit the Government of Pakistan’s COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform to get updates on the situation. You can also call the Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline at 1166 made available by the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination, Government of Pakistan.
To receive personalized guidance on different country service options, you can send us a private message via the Bolo Facebook Page, Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.