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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at us many questions to ponder, one of the most important one is of Health Vs Wealth; which is more important?  The happyAging team brings to you a series of articles addressing this important question.

 

Elders hit-hard during COVID-19 lockdown period

Even without the pandemic, many elders in our country experience; social exclusion, neglect, and live with financial constraints. Elders usually rely on multiple income sources including savings, rentals, paid work, financial support from families and pensions all of which may be in jeopardy as a result of pandemic. “This economic downturn will most likely have a disproportionate impact on older women given their limited access to income, whether through employment, assets such as land and property, or through pension provision than men. This along with social isolation can affect one’s mental health,” says Dr Charanteja Koganti , MBBS, MD Consultant Neuropsychiatrist , KIMS hospitals.

It is a well-known fact that elderly population age > 65 years or with co-morbidities such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Kidney disease Cardiac issues are most susceptible.“Older adults are more likely to already have co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or respiratory illnesses  that we now know raise the risk of severe COVID-19 and COVID-19-related deaths. In addition, a likely weaker immune system makes it harder for older adults to fight off infection,” adds Dr Koganti.

Complicating matters further is the fact that many elders living with dementia and other cognitive impairment may have difficulty understanding the dangers of infection.

 

Risk of rises in depression cases 

Social isolation, loneliness, deteriorating health or the death of partners and friends may heighten this risk of depression. “As most doctors are available on tele consultation apps, old people are not able to figure out the use of apps for consultation which can hinder their treatment course especially for chronic mental and physical health conditions,” says Dr.  Koganti.

Hence it is very important to strike a balance and protect the vulnerable.  She suggests certain approaches to help do that:

  • Strengthen health insurance policies by assessing the needs of older persons, particularly those who have multiple medical co-morbidities/ more isolated or those with limited mobility and cognitive decline/dementia, including physical/ mental health and psychosocial support.
  • Support older persons so they can access digital communication or alternative ways to keep contact with their doctors, families and social networks when physical movements are restricted.
  • Adopt immediate socio-economic relief measures such as guaranteed access to food, water, essential goods and services and basic healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis for older persons affected by economic hardship.
  • Ensure the income security of older persons, particularly older women, through pension coverage.      

At the individual level encourage the elderly to get plenty of exercise. Eat healthy foods to keep your immune system strong. Avoid smoking and alcohol. A weak immune system can slow healing in those who have Covid-19.

 

According to a study, The Elder Story: Ground Reality during Covid 19, about 71 per cent elder respondents stated that the livelihood of the breadwinner of their family was impacted (loss of work/wages) by the lockdown.

According to the study by researchers at Georgia State University, and published in The Journals of Gerontology,  older men worry less about Covid-19 than women their age or than younger men and women, and thus may be at greater risk of contracting it. This is a concern given that older men are already more at risk.

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