Preparing for the 3rd COVID-19 Wave: How To Protect the Elderly
If there are any lessons to be learnt from the 2nd wave of COVID-19, it is that preparation will be key.
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic brought India to a complete standstill with many Indians facing the devastating effects of SARS-CoV-2.
The daily case count reached as high as 4.14 lakhs, with 90.3 lakh cases recorded in the month of May, the highest count recorded for a month in any country so far.
Unfortunately, the third wave is just around the corner and if there are any lessons from the second wave, it is that preparation will be key. This will be especially vital for vulnerable population like seniors, who will need to take adequate precautions in order to remain safe.
Experts are predicting that the third wave will primarily affect children, but it is important to recognize that seniors will always be vulnerable to COVID-19.
Age is one of the biggest factors in the likelihood of disease, and this is no different with the current pandemic.
It is important to also recognize that children are super-spreaders, so the probability that they will infect seniors in their vicinity is high.
As such, it is vital that all necessary precautions and protocols are followed at home to protect seniors from the disease.
Seniors who have not got themselves vaccinated should do so at the earliest as it is, by far, one of the best ways to protect oneself from the virus.
It is vital that all necessary precautions are taken when going for vaccination, such as wearing the appropriate safety gear and obtaining a recent negative test result.
However, this is easier said than done as India is currently facing severe vaccine shortage.
Though there has been some positive news about vaccine procurement recently, obtaining a slot has been an arduous process for many.
Thankfully, the process is somewhat easier for older population.
Follow Proper Safety Protocols And Isolate
Following safety protocols is in some ways both the easiest and most difficult measure to implement. The steps themselves are easy – washing hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.
However, the discipline required to do them properly and continuously can be challenging, and the temptation to relax protocols as cases in the second wave drop, will be real.
It is vital that seniors, and those living with them, maintain this discipline and listen to medical experts on what masks to wear and what precautions to follow, rather than recommendations from neighbours or WhatsApp groups.
Take Steps To Protect Mental Well-Being
This was always true for seniors, as keeping the mind engaged through mental and social activities dramatically improves quality of life.
However, it becomes supremely important during periods of isolation.
Many seniors are accustomed to community activities and all efforts should be made to ensure some version of this continues during the pandemic.
Seniors will require assistance from their family members to do this safely, whether it be to help them attend socially distanced interactions or online engagements, or just participate in activities at home.
Measures like these will go a long way in maintaining morale in such a difficult time.
However, it is also important to recognize that strictly adhering to these steps may not be possible for everyone.
Many will not be able to completely isolate themselves either because of work requirements or because of hyper-active children.
To those with the financial means, relocating seniors to a safer space like an alternative home or senior care homes may be the most prudent option.
Senior care homes like the ones at Antara maintain a strict safety net around seniors and also provide immediate in-house care and support that will not require traveling outside of the protective bubble.
This may provide a certain modicum of relaxation to family members who will no longer need to worry about maintaining a hyper-vigilant safety protocol at home.
Of course, these are all measures that are within the control of individuals but will only go so far, as even a strict safety protocol is not 100 percent effective.
Only a nation-wide policy response will be capable of fully and properly protecting seniors, and, indeed, the population at large.
The devastation of the second wave has shown the need to prepare for the third wave by buttressing healthcare systems with more medicines, oxygen and vaccines. Seniors are amongst the most vulnerable demographics and do not have the margin to wait for delays in finding medicines or hospital beds.
Governments must make every effort possible to ensure that the country is adequately prepared, but in the meantime, it is vital that all necessary precautions are taken to protect seniors.
(Dr. Shilpi Kulshreshtha is a Consultant Physician and Head of Clinical Services at Antara at Max Group company specializing in senior care.)
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