Fall 2020 Newsletter
By Katie Axsom, SPT
College of Nursing and Health Professions
Arkansas State University
The elderly population, 65 years and older, have been the most affected by the pandemic whether they are a community dweller or living in a long-term nursing facility. With age, our immune system becomes fragile and cannot withstand the amount of distress an illness can bring. COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness. Aging internal body systems are weaker and individuals affected are usually unable to recover from sickness as easily, due to other health related issues that come with aging. Months into this pandemic, the elderly are still the group of people most at risk. The CDC states that older adults, 65 or older, account for 16% of the U.S. population, but 80% of the deaths from the pandemic. (CDC, Older Adults) That percentage is staggeringly high. The number continues to climb but over 100,000 elderly adults, 65 or older, have died due to COVID-19. (Freed)
From March until now, we have learned a lot about the Coronavirus, yet people are still being affected by this illness. Many states have mandated rules in place to keep the spread of the virus down. Even with these rules in place, the virus is still spreading and the elderly population continues to be the population most at risk. There are four main actions that we hear about on a daily basis to lower our risk and the risk of others obtaining the virus, which are practicing good hand hygiene, wearing a mask in public, staying six feet apart from people when possible, and disinfecting and cleaning surfaces regularly. (CDC, Older Adults) It doesn’t just take one person doing their part, it takes everyone.
Another factor that puts the elderly population at greater risk is their dependence on others whether at home or in an assisted living community. It is difficult for them to do everything on their own, so they may come in contact with more people. (LaFave) They rely on people to bring groceries and medications, help with cooking and cleaning, sorting through the mail or paying bills. It is paramount to be more cautious and aware of who we are coming into contact with. While it is good to isolate during COVID, we don’t want to isolate the older population to a point that impacts mental, physical, emotional and social health. It is important to stay connected. A few different ways to stay connected with the older population are through virtual avenues. Talking with someone virtually has gotten easier over the last few years. You can Skype, Facetime or Zoom by a click of button. Also, online you can play games with friends, through Arkadium.com or join a virtual book club to talk about your favorite books. A few things you can do outside of the virtual world is plan window visits, where you meet with your loved one through a window to keep social distancing a priority. You can rediscover sending snail mail to family and friends through letters or postcards. Something I just discovered is that you can go on a virtual vacation. There are many museums or national parks that have virtual tours. You can experience the fun and excitement of a vacation, virtually through your computer or phone. (Austrew) We need to keep our brains stimulated with positive thoughts and actions.
With no end in sight yet for this pandemic, another important task for the elderly population to do is to stay up to date with their vaccinations and continue seeing their primary care providers. In the cooler months ahead, flu season and the risk of getting pneumonia is another danger to the older population. Vaccinations reduce the risk for medical visits and hospitalizations. (CDC, Flu) The last thing the older population needs right now is to be in the hospital for the flu or pneumonia when COVID-19 is still present. Staying on top of screenings with primary care providers is also important to make sure their health hasn’t declined and that they are receiving the care that they need to remain in good physical shape for their age.
In closing, remember to keep the elderly population in mind. Know that they have challenges. Stay in contact and assist when you can. Checking in on family and friends is important. Working together to keep everyone healthy and safe in a top priority.
Austrew, A. (2020, July 22). 7 Ways Families Can Stay Connected To Senior Loved Ones During Covid-19. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://www.care.com/c/stories/16765/stay-connected-seniors-covid/
CDC. (2020, August 28). Flu & People 65 Years and Older. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm
CDC. (2020, September 11). Older Adults and COVID-19. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html
Freed, M. (2020, July 24). What Share of People Who Have Died of COVID-19 Are 65 and Older – and How Does It Vary By State? Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/what-share-of-people-who-have-died-of-covid-19-are-65-and-older-and-how-does-it-vary-by-state/
LaFave, S. (2020, May 05). The impact of COVID-19 on older adults. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/05/05/impact-of-covid-19-on-the-elderly/