by Sherrin Griffin – VP, Operations, Sidney SeniorCare –
It still seems surreal to me that COVID-19, or Coronavirus as it is more commonly known, has become the regular headline feature of our daily news, and our lives. The ever-changing, and at times conflicting, reports leave us all wondering … what will happen next, how long will this last and, most importantly, how will this impact myself and my family?
As we already know, infectious disease experts are most concerned about our senior population over 60, and especially people 80 and above. But, essentially anyone with underlying health issues such as heart or lung disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, hypertension or a compromised immune symptom can be at risk.
Our government is advising that all Canadians stay at home as much as possible, especially seniors, and limit visitors. Although this “social distancing” continues to be the most effective way to slow down the spread of COVID-19, it may lead to increased loneliness and depression for some seniors who are already prone to these feelings. This is where social media can really shine. As many seniors now have access to home computers, tablets and/or smartphones; email, FaceBook, FaceTime and other video chatting and social media options can be safe and effective means of communication for family members and friends to connect with and keep in touch with seniors. And for those seniors who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with digital media, picking up the phone works just as well.
In some cases, this concern over older family members can cause friction between generations. The often frantic efforts of adult children to ensure their senior parents are not taking unnecessary risks can be met with annoyance. The elder parents may feel that they are quite capable of taking care of themselves, and making the decisions that govern that, without overbearing interference from their younger family members. I know that I, myself, have felt unjustifiably panicked when unable to get ahold of my elderly parents these last few weeks, fearful that they’re out and about more than they should be.
Athough the mandate to “stay home” ensures more safety for seniors and less risk for Coronavirus, it does come with its own set of challenges. With the indefinite closure of community pools and recreation centres, where many seniors enjoy aquafit and other fitness activities, there is a risk to retreat to a more sedentary lifestyle which can negatively impact health and wellness, as well as increase feelings of social isolation. This is a time when going back to basics can be the perfect solution – take this opportunity to ask your favourite senior to go for a walk or do some light gardening together, keeping in mind the six-feet-apart rule, of course. Now that spring has officially arrived, walking outside in the sunshine becomes the perfect exercise regime and mood enhancer.
Since viruses typically spread more easily in colder weather, the experts are unsure how the Coronavirus will behave once warmer temperatures arrive. That being said, COVID-19 could potentially be with us for a long time. These types of viruses will most likely become more common as animals and birds encroach more on human spaces due to shrinking natural habitats, climate and environmental change. Viruses are also getting more clever at finding ways to mutate and pass from animal to human, as in the case of COVID-19.
In the meantime, arm yourself, your family, and your senior loved ones with knowledge and awareness so that you can continue to enjoy life and retain your independence. The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (http://bccdc.ca) is the recommended resource for accurate, up-to-date information.
If you think a senior loved one might have the COVID-19 virus, contact your primary care provider or call 8-1-1 for assessment. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, respiratory distress and/or a fever over 103°. (Although, please keep in mind that 99.5° is considered high for a senior.)
It is uncertain times like this that force us to realize what’s really important in life – the health and welfare of our family and community. Let’s band together to protect and assist our more vulnerable seniors by asking to help with grocery runs, picking up medication, and ensuring they are staying mobile and getting out into nature where possible.
As far as the future goes, we can take comfort in the fact that there are “virus hunters” across the globe working tirelessly to locate and understand future viruses that may impact our health and well-being. The fact that bats, where this Coronavirus likely originated, are able to live with viruses and pathogens at such a large level without getting sick may offer significant insight. Who knew that bats might just hold the key to the future welfare of mankind?
We at Sidney SeniorCare are making ourselves available to seniors in need in our community to pick up and deliver essentials. Please contact us at 250-589-0010 for more information.