Caring for Seniors During a Pandemic

Updated on January 18, 2021

Contrary to what many people might think, the current pandemic (COVID19) is not the first in human history, and it is unlikely to be the last.  Undoubtedly, therefore, if you have seniors under your care, you need to be aware of how the way you care for them might need to change during a pandemic. Without a doubt, senior care during a pandemic requires meticulous adherence to strict standards.

Because seniors already suffer from various ailments, mostly age-related, they are especially vulnerable when viral diseases start to circulate. Many seniors are also immobile, which further compounds their vulnerability.

Important Operational Changes

Depending on the nature of the pandemic being experienced, the way you operate may need to change. If the disease that is being spread is airborne, strict measures may need to be implemented to keep the air around seniors safe. This may also mean keeping seniors inside to avoid getting them sick.  Frequent and thorough sanitization should also be included in any pandemic protocol for spaces occupied by seniors.

For the most part, the type of measures implemented will depend on the nature of the pandemic. During this COVID 19 pandemic, for instance, employees in senior care institutions need to take greater care as they engage the public. They need to ensure that they avoid all situations that expose them to the disease because once they are infected; the seniors under their care are at a greater risk of becoming sick. People who do individualized home care need to take similar precautions.

In addition to caregivers taking extra precautions to remain disease-free, adjusted senior care in a pandemic may require changes in operation standards related to visiting. One of the first moves many elder care facilities had to take during the COVID19 pandemic was a restriction, and in some cases curtailing of visits from outside. This is a logical and critical move since more visitors means more exposure to potential carriers. Similar protocols may need to be implemented for those who deliver supportive services to locations occupied by seniors

General Wellness Practices: Keeping Seniors Healthy During a Pandemic

Senior wellness needs special attention in normal times, so it is only natural that in a pandemic, this need will intensify.  Like other people in the society, seniors who are healthier are less likely to fall victim to infectious diseases. Those who care for seniors will need to augment wellness plans and protocols when a pandemic is in progress.  Prevention, though, must always remain paramount.

In addition to the above, seniors should never run out of medication during a pandemic.  Since leaving home to get medicine may be extremely risky for a senior during a pandemic, caregivers should find safe ways to have them delivered. Seniors should also be provided with tools and services that allow for immediate attention when they need it. Alert services that offer help after a fall or some other emergency are very useful during this time.

Social Well-Being

Since pandemic situations typically result in seniors being isolated from family and friends, special attention must be given to their social well-being.

Keep seniors connected with the rest of the world by taking advantage of the technology that is available. Platforms such as zoom, Skype, Facebook, TikTok and WhatsApp are all useful tools that can be used to connect seniors with the friends and family who cannot visit them. They also offer a wide range of entertainment. Perhaps this is the greatest advantage of experiencing a pandemic during the age of the internet.

Seniors can enjoy life even when a pandemic is raging and even in the midst of a lockdown. Modern technology can be used to convert many physical games into virtual ones.  Games like Bingo can be played on video call platforms like zoom. Fitness sessions can be done in a similar fashion. Some seniors will enjoy the intellectual exercise that comes from puzzles and books so these can be delivered weekly. Special treats also help to ease the emotional and psychological toll that a global health crisis can have on seniors. These treats may include favourite meals, music (which can be shared through non-physical means such as intercom systems or devices such as phones) or audio-books.

Psychological Support

A pandemic can impact everyone psychologically, but seniors face pandemic-related psychological challenges that are unique and need to be addressed in ways that others don’t experience.  In order to ensure that the stresses of the times do not take a toll on their mental health, seniors should be given robust and specialized psychological support during any pandemic.  One best practice is to ensure that the seniors under your care are seen by a therapist at least once per week for the duration of the pandemic. Further still, ensure that those who need greater support receive it.

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