As COVID-19 rears its head across the country, some people have already built up an immunity to it. Experts suggest that most people with COVID-19 produce antibodies. That said, certain groups are more susceptible to the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified three at-risk groups: seniors (those over 65 years of age), residents of senior living facilities, and patients with comorbidities (existing illnesses). According to research by Johns Hopkins, people with comorbidities may be more likely to develop severe symptoms and be at risk of death. If you’re concerned about the health of your loved one, our COVID-19 guidance for seniors may help.
Coronavirus Versus COVID-19
To understand what makes seniors more vulnerable to the disease, it’s important to distinguish between the terms “coronavirus” and “COVID-19.” Specifically, the coronavirus refers to the “SARS-CoV-2” virus. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is the illness the virus causes. When the coronavirus breaches the body’s barriers, the immune system deploys repeated counter-attacks against it. This is how patients develop antibodies against the virus. Still, studies show that some people may be asymptomatic. Incredibly, as many as 80% of people who test positive for COVID-19 show no symptoms at all. Meanwhile, others with weakened or compromised immune systems may experience severe symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, and fever.
The existing illnesses, or “co-morbidities,” that the CDC cites as of special concern are chronic lung disease, asthma, heart conditions, immunocompromised conditions such as HIV/AID, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and liver disease.
Strengthening the Immune System is Key
It’s a biological fact that our immune systems decrease in effectiveness as we get older. However, a strong immune system is the key to survival. Studies indicate that the elderly have far fewer ACE2 receptors in their lungs. According to Science Alert, ACE2 receptors play a huge role in managing the degree of inflammation. Essentially, the lower levels of ACE2 receptors in seniors make them more susceptible to a cytokine storm. The latter occurs as a seeming over-reaction to infection, when the body deploys a frenzied attack against both the virus and its own cells. A massive cytokine storm can result in prolonged high fevers, extreme shortness of breath, and a sharp decrease in blood pressure. The result could be fatal.
Thus, strengthening the immune system is key to raising survival rates for seniors.
Social Distancing to Protect Seniors
To protect against the virus, “social distancing” is the first line of defense. As we know, the virus can spread through coughs and sneezes. However, another common way of catching the virus is by touching surfaces or items previously handled by infected individuals.
In multi-generational households, it’s best for seniors to have their own rooms or space. Also, the frequent washing of hands and surfaces can be critical in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
That said, we must ensure that social distancing doesn’t lead to social isolation for our most vulnerable populations. Studies have linked social isolation to depression and suicide ideation. David York’s home health aides and personal care aides play an important role in keeping seniors engaged at this critical time. They can be essential for ensuring seniors are not isolated and neglected.
Getting the Shopping Done Safely
When shopping for groceries and other essentials, seniors are encouraged to wear masks. If your loved one belongs to an at-risk group, try to do the shopping for them. If you’re pressed for time, home health aides can step in as can organizations helmed by young people. For example, “Shopping Angels,” started by a University of Nevada student, has found unprecedented demand for its services. The young volunteers shop for seniors free of charge (most people tip). If seniors must do their own shopping, many grocery chains now have “senior hours.”
David York Agency’s Best Practices for Protecting all Clients
Seniors in care facilities face greater susceptibility to COVID-19. Because of proximity to other residents, caretakers, nurses, and doctors, conditions are ideal for the rapid spread of COVID-19. Presently, the Centers for Disease Control has issued recommendations for such facilities.
To protect our seniors, David York Agency has implemented CDC-recommended best practices.
These practices involve COVID-19 in-service training for our home health aides. Our aides are trained in good hygiene practices, the preparation of healthy foods, and the recognition of COVID-19 symptoms. We also provide our employees with gloves and masks, as needed.
In addition, we emphasize the importance of personal hygiene for aides and constantly monitor their health. Aides who are indisposed are replaced immediately.
Bolster Immunity With Diet, Exercise, Sleep, and Stress Reduction
Yes, seniors have a higher susceptibility to COVID-19 than others. However, they are not without recourse. Presently, strengthening the immune system is the key to survival. Here are suggestions for enhancing your loved one’s immune responses at this critical time.
1. Stop Smoking
If your loved one smokes, encourage them to stop. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can damage the lining of the air sacs in the lungs. In severe cases, COVID-19 can lead to extreme shortness of breath, and patients may need ventilator support. If the lungs are affected, your loved one’s chances of fighting off COVID-19 are much worse.
2. Make Sleep an Ally
Sleep is critical to revitalizing the body. Studies show that sleep contributes greatly to well-being. The general recommendation is to get six to eight hours of sleep. Make sure that your loved one has a consistent waking and sleeping routine. In addition, avoid serving alcohol before bed because it can disrupt sleep.
3. Reduce Stress to Strengthen the Immune System
Cortisol, the stress hormone, can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. It can also affect sleep. Help your loved ones weather stress by making sure they keep their doctor appointments for existing conditions.
4. Increase Physical Activity to Reduce Stress
Aerobic exercise can boost the immune system, reduce stress, and relieve depression. A potential problem with social distancing is the reinforcement of sedentary habits. It takes determination to keep exercise routines going. To help your loved one keep fit, check out these creative ways to get them moving. There are literally hundreds of YouTube videos to get people of all ages moving. Also, there are many classes on zoom these days that are sure to be open to seniors who want to do an appropriate and productive workout at home.
5. Eat Right to Decrease Susceptibility to Illness
Shopping may be a challenge in the age of COVID-19, but a balanced diet is still imperative. Fresh vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats should be included in meals — the Mediterranean diet is the best-known example. If your loved one isn’t already on this diet, this is a great time to start.
6. Add Supplements to the Diet to Boost Wellbeing
Vitamin C is great for bolstering the immune system. Take it a few times a day and augment it with Vitamin C rich foods such as oranges and grapefruits. As we have written several times on our blog, Vitamin D is great for fighting flu viruses as well. To support the immune system, feed your gut with good bacteria. Probiotics are a great supplement for this purpose. If your loved one is amenable, add foods like yogurt, miso, or sauerkraut to meals. Let us not forget about zinc which works in tandem with the other nutrients to power punch and really uproot corona.
7. Reduce Alcohol Intake to Avoid Taxing the Body
Having a cocktail or glass of wine to ease the stress of social isolation is understandable. However, make sure your loved one drinks in moderation. This equates to one a drink a day for women and two for men. Again, we have written extensively on how alcohol is metabolized differently in the elderly. As such, they are more susceptible to alcohol abuse. Finally, since alcohol can disrupt sleep, the last drink of the day should be at least an hour before bedtime.
Home Health Care at the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Battle
Of the three broad risk factors, the third centers on the heightened risk in senior care facilities. Such facilities are beginning to take additional precautions, but challenges remain.
On the other hand, home health care enables seniors to practice social distancing while receiving both medical and social support.
David York Agency Supports the Above COVID-19 Guidance for Seniors in the Bronx
David York Agency understands the challenges of caregiving and is willing to provide all the support you need.
If you’d like more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.
David York Agency Home Healthcare remains committed to providing personalized care for your loved one. If you have questions about our services, please contact us. We can help you through the difficult times and give you the break you deserve!