Enhancing Safety for Living-at-Home Seniors Amidst Coronavirus Concerns
While aging in place at home is preferred by most elders over residing in an assisted care facility, there are safety issues to address dealing with loneliness and potential accidents, such as falling. With the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, isolated seniors are even more at risk – both from the virus and by issues from sheltering in place, either self-imposed or by local government mandate, resulting in reduced interaction with loved ones or caregivers
The rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is presenting challenges throughout the world. The virus, whose symptoms are more severe than the common flu, has penetrated every continent except Antarctica, and every state in the United States. California, New York and Washington have been the hardest hit states and New York City has the greatest number of cases and is considered an epicenter for the virus in the U.S. Many states have already instituted shelter in place (i.e., stay at home) mandates except for essential trips such as groceries, doctors and pharmacies.
Frequent handwashing and “social distancing” have become the norm and in California, as an example, the governor has closed all non-essential businesses and restaurants are restricted to takeout or delivery service only. For aging in place seniors, at-home isolation for protection from COVID-19 infection has the unintended consequence of reducing the physical safety of these isolated people and making them more vulnerable to accidents and mental stress.
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Aging in place seniors feel comfortable continuing to live where they have been and familiar surroundings bring up pleasant memories of past years, of loved ones, loved ones lost and enjoyable experiences.
Studies have shown that seniors who age in place at home live longer than those in assisted living facilities. At home, you know where everything is and can move about more confidently than in a new living environment. In an assisted living facility, a senior may be exposed to respiratory or other diseases from other occupants that can prove fatal to seniors with age-related or other compromised immune systems. This is particularly alarming with the rampant
COVID-19 virus going around.
Living at home normally makes for a healthier senior, cutting down on medical expenses.
However, with the coronavirus these are not normal times. Isolation at home, even for healthy seniors, leads to anxiety and an increased feeling of loneliness.
A January, 2019 article from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), entitled The “Loneliness Epidemic,” starts off by stating, “Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” researchers warned in a recent webcast, “and the problem is particularly acute among seniors...” From CareMore Health come key findings from studies that “An estimated $6.7B in annual federal spending is attributable to social isolation among older adults. Poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increase in risk of coronary heart disease and a 32% rise in the risk of stroke.”
Senior isolation at home also means an increased risk of falls, which can lead to serious injury or even death. Thus, there is a tradeoff of being in isolation between protection from contracting COVID-19 and the harmful effects of a senior feeling alone and possibly abandoned by loved ones.
If isolated at home, an elder should maintain a healthy diet and continue with any exercise programs they might have. Along with proper sleep, these will contribute to reduced anxiety and better overall mental health. If visits by loved ones are not possible, phone calls and virtual visits via cellphone and computer will help alleviate some of the loneliness feeling. But what if a medical emergency arises?
From a SeniorsMatter.com article:
“Safety is the biggest concern for seniors aging in place, and by far the greatest threat to seniors' safety is falling down. According to a statistical report by the National Safety Council every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall and many more are injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC data indicates that more than one in four older adults falls every year (and fewer than half tell their doctor); 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries; and more than 800,000 elder patients are hospitalized each year because of injuries due to a fall, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. (https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/older-adult-falls)
Elders living in isolation should have the ability to quickly contact family members or friends for emergency assistance, even if the circumstances do not permit the elder to get to a phone. One way to get in touch with trusted help is with a medical alert device that is on the elder’s person, either in the form of a pendant or wristband. To this end, GoFind Inc. is in final development of NudgeR
NudgeR helps keeps an elder safe automatically. If your senior shouts "help,” pushes the SOS button, or falls, NudgeR automatically sends text messages to up to four trusted contacts and optionally a 24x7 live call center. The senior thus has a way to get assistance quickly and easily.
For more information about NudgeR visit nudger.life