Protecting Older Persons in the wake of COVID 19

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS), given its responsibility for the provision of services to vulnerable groups, wishes to inform the general population that older persons have a higher risk of contracting and being adversely affected by COVID – 19, especially those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney, cancer and heart conditions. Accordingly, the Ministry is asking the general public and family members in particular, to be especially vigilant in their interactions with older persons to ensure their protection. It is important to note in this regard that close contact with children on a frequent basis may place older persons at heightened risk.

The Ministry therefore wishes to remind members of the public and particularly older persons who may be living on their own, of the general guidelines, according to the Ministry of Health, which includes proper hygiene, social distancing and self-quarantine.

The Ministry will make every effort to ensure that necessary protocols are carried out at its local Social Welfare District Offices, at Senior Activity Centres and Homes for Older Persons under its remit.

Family members, caregivers at private residences or workers at senior citizens’ homes, institutions and activity centres may wish to consider the following:  Know what medications your loved one is taking and assist them to have extra on hand.

    • Know the symptoms of COVID 19 and where and when to call for help
    • Practice social distancing and proper hygiene as far as possible;
    • Medication should include Vitamins C&B;
    • Ensure our seniors are well hydrated with clean water and fresh juices where applicable;
    • Monitor food and other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan.
    • Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores.
    • If you have a loved one living in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently;
    • If your loved one is in a care facility and you might be worried, balance the care that your elderly can get in a facility versus if you took them home.
    • Develop a care plan and get buy-in from family members and relatives;  Know the protocol for visiting hours and visits should be limited to immediate family members as much as possible.
    • Try as much as possible to make the older persons comfortable, taking them outside on sunny days for fresh air as opposed to air conditioning.

Remember that social connections are very important at this time. Use traditional and new methods of communication to stay in touch with and provide necessary support to the older person.

Older persons are encouraged to take the following everyday preventive actions:

          • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
          • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer;
          • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
          • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
          • Avoid close contact or visits from people (friends and family members) who are sick.
          • Try to reschedule non-essential medical appointments or have home visits conducted Where possible, request telehealth support
          • Be alert for atypical presentation of COVID-19. For example, a fall, forgetfulness, or noticeable changes in behavior might be a sign of infection, even if other, more common symptoms aren’t in evidence.
          • Practice social distancing: avoid all contact with or proximity to persons coughing and sneezing.
          • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
          • Be prepared to stay at home for prolonged periods, but do remember to stay active, walk in the hallways or around the room
          • Engage in healthy social communication for example making phone calls, learning new technology, journaling and sharing experiences and memories with family and friends by traditional or modern means.

The Ministry wishes to assure all seniors of its continued support in dealing with all applications, queries and requests expeditiously during this time. Instead of visiting our offices, a special hotline - the Older Person’s Hotline: 800 – OPIC – 1405 is available for all seniors between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm daily.

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