Around the world, the population of older adults has been the most affected by the coronavirus. The pandemic has forced millions of them to isolate themselves from their family, work and activities.
According to United Nations data, there are more than 962 million people over the age of 65. Given the vulnerability of this population group, the Voice of america He interviewed Dr. Alicia Arbaje, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins University, to find out her recommendations.
Question: What specific recommendations do you have for the elderly to prevent the spread of coronavirus?
Answer: Exercise and nutrition, but at the same time try to separate the older person from the children. I know it is very difficult to do that, but it can be done at home. If the older adult lives with you at home, at least that person should wear a mask, because the problem has been contact with children and also with one, who may not know they have the disease yet. You don’t have to be afraid, but you do have to be very careful. Ideally help that person use a separate bathroom. If you can use separate dishes and towel. This is recommended for people who already have the disease, but to prevent it is good to also have some of that in mind.
Q: If the older adult has to go to the doctor for his annual check-up, do you recommend that he go to the appointment or postpone it ?.
A: I think it depends on where that person is located. In general, the annual check-up should be postponed. I think it is better that if the risk is very high, that they should stay home. Now we are seeing patients by video, as we are doing this conversation now, and they are also doing it by phone. If you don’t have acute symptoms, call your doctor and have a phone conversation and decide between yourselves what would be best.
Q: Should families remove their older adults from geriatric centers?
A: I think that right now, the act of taking this person out and going somewhere else and being with the children, even if it is in the family, the risk remains high. At least in those centers, they are cared for, someone is checking them. In general, I think it’s better for people to stay wherever they are and not try to expose them to transportation.
Q: What care should be taken when an older adult is at home and has symptoms of coronavirus ?.
A: First review the coronavirus symptoms, which are fever, muscle aches, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste or smell. Any of those symptoms that one has, no problem, except one. If you develop shortness of breath you have to call and find a professional. They don’t have to go to the hospital, nor do they necessarily have to go to the doctor. If you have any of the other symptoms they can call your doctor and explain it to you. But if you have difficulty breathing, for example, from walking from where you are sitting, to the bathroom. So you should go to a hospital, but when you call the ambulance, explain that you think you have COVID-19.
Q: What to do if that elderly person has coronavirus and is in a house with other family members?
A: Well, in that case then you do have to isolate that person. It should be put in a separate room, a separate bathroom, and try not to enter that room. Just bring him food, not to clean the room, or spend a lot of time in that room so that others don’t get it, because there is a lot of contagion among the same people who live in the house. Wash your clothes and have it separated from others. Usually the person with the coronavirus lasts between 5 to 14 days with the disease, so we are not talking about how you are going to do this for a long time, but until they start to improve and enough time has passed for them to recover.
Q: Do you recommend that older adults take supplements to boost their immune system?
A: We don’t know if that is effective, but I do recommend that people focus on their nutrition, because nutrition we do know that helps the immune system with a high consumption of fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods that we know cause inflammation such as eggs, butter, other dairy products, and yogurt.
Q: There is a lot of information on over-the-counter medicines that can help prevent coronavirus. What do you advise ?.
A: It is important to avoid medications that cause damage or strong side effects in older adults, antihistamines that should be avoided because they cause delirium, lethargy, and urinary problems. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen should also be avoided, this is avoided in older adults because it causes kidney failure. In other countries, they are considering using anti-HIV and anti-malaria drugs. There have been no studies done right now to confirm that works, so I don’t recommend that you start taking those medications that can be dangerous in older adults. The best thing they can do is stay healthy.