International Day of Older Persons 2020: COVID-19 essential checklist for elderly and caregivers

The pandemic situation and the prolonged stay indoors can easily overwhelm anyone. The problem can be more severe for the elderly especially those living alone. Here are some easy points to keep in mind

Written by Dr Vishal Sehgal

Of all age groups, the elderly are at a significantly higher risk of being infected by Covid-19. They, therefore, require maximum care, protection, and monitoring. Through effective steps and processes, it is possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 related complications among elderly family members, parents and relatives. On the occasion of International Day of Older Persons, observed every year on October 1, here is a checklist that the elderly or their caregivers/family members can follow and keep everyone safe.


Exercise is ideal to keep the body active, stress-free and boosts immunity as well. Hence, caregivers should encourage the elderly to exercise regularly.

Stocking essentials

All essential items such as groceries, vegetables, fruits, disinfectants, medicines and other daily needs products should be well-stocked. Even if you are not able to replenish the supplies for a week or two due to supply disruptions, there shouldn’t be any shortage.

Water intake

A key factor in maintaining good health is to keep the body properly hydrated. There should be adequate intake of water.

Managing existing health conditions

Among the elders, people with chronic ailments such as diabetes, blood pressure, respiratory, or cardiac health problems are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection. The virus is known to affect the body’s immune system and causes respiratory problems and even organ failure in severe cases. Hence, steps such as taking regular medication, taking all precautions and following the advice of the doctors and caregivers are very important for the elderly.

Sanitisation and social distancing

Utmost hygiene and sanitisation are necessary in living spaces for the elderly. Disinfecting all the surfaces, maintaining proper ventilation and ensuring complete personal hygiene can keep the home environment free from infection.

Social distancing is not a rule anymore, but, a necessity. The entry of outsiders or people with COVID-19 symptoms or any illness such as cold and fever should not be allowed in the living spaces. Caregivers need to daily check their body temperature and monitor themselves for any symptoms or illnesses.

Wearing a mask and frequently sanitising hands are basic but highly effective steps and they should be strictly adhered to.

Contingency planning

Despite the best efforts and care, it is not possible to completely rule out a scenario where the virus infects the person. Hence, there should be a plan of action ready for such a situation. Keep a bag ready with essential items, medications, clothes, and necessary documents etc. The phone numbers of doctors, caregivers or close family members should be kept handy for any such contingency. The elderly or their caregivers can discuss with the doctor in advance to be aware of the protocols and steps to be taken in case there is COVID-19 infection or any other medical complication. These steps should include decisions such as how to arrange for patient transportation and which hospital to visit. If one is covered by a care plan by a specific hospital, then the hospital’s medical experts should also be a part of the contingency planning process.

Remain updated

It is important to remain updated about the local pandemic conditions and daily developments. The elderly should either follow the local news channels or get adequate information from their caregivers regularly.

Avoiding stress

The pandemic situation and the prolonged stay indoors can easily overwhelm anyone. The problem can be more severe for the elderly especially those living alone. Hence, they must avoid stress. They can interact with their family members, friends or neighbours through digital communication tools such as video calls, chats or social media networks.

ALSO READ | Matters of the mind: For seniors feeling anxious during Covid-19, here is how to dig deep and stay strong

Diseases often come calling when they are least expected. While there is no fool-proof mechanism in place to eliminate their occurrence, lifestyle changes, contingency planning and adherence to guidelines can certainly help the elderly in reducing the risks to their health and wellness.

The author is medical director, Portea Medical

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