Parenting,  Wellness

Pandemic Diaries: Caring for the Elderly

By Neha Kulkarni

COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel Coronavirus, is known to be particularly dangerous to the elderly population. Those with fragile health and/or pre-existing health conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, diseases of the lung, and cancer are likely to have a more severe coronavirus infection than any other age groups. 

As our beloved grandparents and older parents or relatives are particularly vulnerable in these times, you might be a bit concerned.

We shall explore some ways how you can take care of the elderly in a more effective manner. 

1. Take care of yourself first: Before the departure of any flight, the following safety instructions on these lines are given – if you are travelling with a child or someone who needs assistance, please assist yourself before assisting others. In the times of a global pandemic, this roughly translates to the fact that you ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds or so, avoid crowds, make sure you do not touch your face, clean the surfaces of your homes which might be touched by others, etc. 

This is important because if you are an asymptomatic Coronavirus patient, you might unknowingly transmit the virus to an elderly or a diseased person.

2. Stay socially and technologically connected: As many places of worship have closed down, the social lives of many people have been brought to an abrupt halt. Faith is a big part of many senior people’s lives and their way of staying connected in a community. 

In India, going to satsang, bhajan or a keertan allows them to develop friendships as it increases opportunities for interactions, engage in social service, and even help their connections with matchmaking and other familial engagements. Many elder people are also grappling with their own diseases or the loss of their spouses. 

Their faith in the community might be a big support to tackle such issues. In trying times like these, it is very easy to get bored and lose a sense of purpose. This is a good time to educate them on technology usage. 

You could teach them how to video chat, some apps also aid with hearing challenges faced by the elderly. Ask your family members to communicate with them on a regular basis, and help them stay connected with their friends (Make sure that you are patient with them!) 

3. Start a Project: Give them a project. It could be organizing old photos in albums or cooking a family recipe which they haven’t made in ages. This will help them to remember old memories and relish them. 

4. Postpone unimportant things: Do they need an annual checkup now? Probably not. They might risk an infection in the hospital so it is better to stay put. If they are unwell, do they need to visit the clinic? It is better to schedule a telephonic appointment in the current situation. If they show any COVID-19 symptoms, it is still advisable to have an online appointment first. 

Also, while it may sound like a no-brainer, it is essential to avoid travel. This applies to weddings and funerals too. Even if it is within the family, it is essential to contain risks as much as possible.

It is also necessary to stock up on their medicines in these times. A sudden stricter lockdown might make it difficult to get their medications on time, also do make sure that you enlist someone as a second caregiver in case you become ill. 

As a caregiver, you might find yourself running out of patience and may feel fatigued. Do remember that self-compassion goes a long way. You’re doing the best that you can, given the circumstances

If you are reading this article to understand and help your elderly family or friend, you are already there! 

NEHA KULKARNI

Neha holds a degree in Organizational Psychology from Leeds University, UK. She also has completed her Master’s in Clinical Psychology from the Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune in 2015 and has worked as a school counselor, a research assistant, and an HR professional. Her research dissertation is on the topic ‘Generations at workplace’. She is a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), a member of the Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP), and is a qualified Occupational Test User (OTU) – Ability and Personality. Her research interest areas include emotional intelligence, well-being, bullying, generations at the workplace (generations X and Y), work values, and conscientiousness with respect to job satisfaction.

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