Covid-19 & Senior Adults

Covid-19 is not only paramount in the news, but also affects all of us individually, whether it is having to work from home, limiting trips out just for food, or socially distancing from others, including close friends and older family members. The short-term effects are more obvious with businesses closing, loss of jobs, and cancelation of school, conferences, and trips. The long-term effects are yet to be determined. It is hoped the actions of the government to provide relief with soften the economic blow of this virus.

Older adults are affected differently than others. They are at the highest risk for complications, including death, from Covid-19. The death rate for those over the age of 80 is 14.8%, the highest rate for any group (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It makes sense that much effort has been to protect this age group. Senior sites closed immediately and meals went to pick-up or home delivery. Many states have locked down nursing home facilities and assisted living communities. Many older adults who live at home have switched from having a paid caregiver to a family caregiver, as their family member is not working, thereby eliminating the cost for an outside caregiver. This has reduced the workforce needed for in-home caregiving. For the nursing facilities and assisted livings, their population is down, as accepting new residents requires testing and a 14 day quarantine. Without adequate testing available, new admissions at facilities is not possible in most areas. There are currently 300,000 open beds in facilities nationwide (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

The growing concern for older adults at this time is the availability of medical assistance at emergency rooms. Older adults are high users of their local emergency departments, due to chronic health conditions, falls, and other medical issues. With Covid-19, emergency care may become difficult to obtain, especially in metropolitan areas. Without an expedient response to an older adult coming into an emergency room, there could be dire consequences. Every 11 seconds, an adult over the age of 65 is treated for injuries from a fall in an emergency room. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from the complications of a fall (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The impact Covid-19 has on older adults is not just the harsh symptoms, but also the reduction in access to emergency care.

Hopefully, with social distancing, good hygiene practices, and a group mindset to protect older adults, Covid-19 will become less of a threat. With an aging America, in-home caregiving and facilities will continue to be needed. Prompt medical care with an ample supply of equipment will not be taken-for-granted. All sectors will be more prepared for anything like this in the future.

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