COVID-19: How To Keep Our Elderly Loved Ones Safe During The Outbreak
Nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in Singapore are senior citizens aged 50 and above.
[UPDATED 21 March 2020]
Singapore reported its first two deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday (21 March). The patients are both senior citizens, a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man. Both patients died due to complications and underlying health conditions, the Ministry of Health (MOH said).
Nearly half of coronavirus patients in Singapore are senior citizens aged 50 and above. This brings to mind the inevitable question of the safety of our elderly relatives and loved ones, prompting the compilation of a list of personal safety tips for the elderly.
Personal safety tips for the elderly
Social distancing and avoiding crowds are rules that should be practised by all of us, but particularly so by the elderly among us.
With coronavirus cases on the rise, and an incubation period of up to 2 weeks of the virus within the body, it is difficult to gauge if someone is infected or not and is thus difficult to stay away from anyone who may have it.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, and the most important of personal safety tips for the elderly would be to stay home and avoid going out into the public.
Personal safety tips for the elderly – Monitor their health
Watch out for your older relatives and loved ones by encouraging them to check their temperatures twice a day. In addition to fever, any other sign of respiratory illness like a cough or even difficulty breathing should be reported to the nearest GP immediately.
It is important to note that it is not advisable to walk into the emergency of a hospital in order to avoid unnecessary exposure to the illness, because of a suspected case of coronavirus. Always check beforehand via calling either with the hospital, or your family physician.
Practise enhanced personal hygiene around the elderly
Always wash your own hands with soap or an alcohol-based hand rub before coming in contact with your grandparents and elderly loved ones. It would be best to shower and take off any “outdoor” clothes before hugging them in greeting.
Ensure that you do not cough or sneeze into the open around them regardless of whether or not you are infected, exposing them to potential illnesses and weakening their immune systems.
Keep your homes clean
Help your elderly loved ones keep their living spaces clean. Maintaining a clean home is another very important aspect of personal safety tips for the elderly.
Disinfect regularly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, remotes, tables, sinks, non-fabric chairs, and phones.
Help them stock up on essential items
Help your elderly relatives and loved ones avoid taking a trip to the wet market or even the supermarket downstairs, by helping them to stock up on groceries, dry rations and essential household items. Do inform them that you could pick up anything they need, in order to dissuade them from making the trip into public themselves. Make arrangements with a trusted family member or friend if you are unable to fulfil your obligations.
Our senior citizens possibly have the highest risk among us all, of contracting a more serious case of the virus, and their safety and welfare should be at the forefront of our concerns. It is reported that nearly 15% of infected patients aged 80 or older have died from the disease.
Additional precautionary measures for seniors
On 20 March, the Singapore government issued an advisory on precautionary measures to reduce the risk of further local transmission of COVID-19, especially for vulnerable segments of the population.
Good personal and environmental hygiene:
· Wash hands with soap and water frequently.
· Avoid touching your face, in particular your eyes, nose and mouth.
· Maintain good ventilation in your home.
· Do not go out if you are feeling unwell, except to see a doctor. If you are unwell with fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat or runny nose, put on a mask and seek medical attention from the nearest GP or Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) immediately, regardless of the severity of symptoms.
If going out:
- Stay outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, rather than indoors.
- Keep a safe distance from others.
- Avoid mingling in large groups and crowded places.
- Avoid sharing food and cutlery.
More home-based activities:
- Engage in TV-based or online-based activities.
- Explore telecommuting possibilities with your employer (if applicable).
- Explore having essential supplies, e.g. food, groceries and medication delivered to your doorstep if necessary.
- Reduce social gatherings at home or visiting others in groups.
For Family Members and Caregivers of Seniors
- When visiting seniors or coming home to seniors, wash hands with soap and water.
- Do not share food or cutlery with seniors.
- Ensure that seniors’ homes are clean and well-ventilated.
- If seniors have fever or respiratory symptoms, regardless of severity, bring them to seek immediate medical care at the nearest PHPC.
- If you are unwell, refrain from interacting with seniors and seek medical care.
- If you are returning from overseas, refrain from interacting with seniors for a 14-day period.
We hope you practise these personal safety tips for the elderly to help them minimise their risk of contracting COVID-19.
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