How can you support your elderly parents and in-law during these uncertain times of Covid-19? With the rapid spread of Covid-19 around the world, senior citizens are the most affected, being the group most likely to fall seriously ill due to pre-existing medical conditions.
In Italy, the average age of death from Covid-19 is 81, while 80 per cent of coronavirus-related deaths in China belonged to those 60 and above.
While a recent news article says that young adults now make up the largest group of Covid-19 infections in Singapore – overtaking those aged 60 and above – the elderly are still as vulnerable as ever to succumbing to the disease.
And with safe distancing measures in place, many (if not all) of their social activities have been taken off schedule. This may mean having to reconfigure their lifestyles temporarily and dealing with loneliness, as a majority of our elderly live alone.
Here are five key things we can do as a family member or community to help Grandma and Grandpa get through this tricky period.
Get their necessities delivered
The threat of becoming severely ill is higher for the elderly, and with queues snaking up the aisles at supermarkets, it can be difficult for older folks to get outside for essentials, like groceries.
Personalised trips may not be a good idea if the situation continues to worsen. Instead, try turning to online supermarkets and grocers like Redmart, Pandamart, Fairprice Online and Allforyou (Sheng Siong Online). What you need will be delivered to the doorstep, just like food delivery – which can also be a good idea for seniors who find it inconvenient to make their own meals.
If shopping is absolutely necessary, seniors can also choose to visit Fairprice stores on the first operating hour of each Fairprice store every Monday. This is a new initiative for senior citizens, pregnant women and those with disabilities to get their own dedicated shopping hour at Fairprice to protect them during Covid-19.
Stores that operate 24 hours will have 7am to 8am as the dedicated shopping time. Seniors are reminded to bring along their Pioneer Generation card to enter and enjoy the additional discounts from the existing scheme when they shop on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Help them get official updates
With how fast the Covid-19 situation is evolving, updates can happen hourly with important policies and changes rolled out on short notice. As a large number of the elderly may not be tech savvy, they are at the risk of being ill-informed or misinformed, such as by rumours circulating on Whatsapp (for example, the claim that saline can protect you from the virus).
Teaching the elderly to get alerts from official sources can help them navigate fake news in order to stay updated and cautious, and even follow proper hygiene practices. For Covid-19 updates in Singapore, go to gov.sg or sign up for their WhatsApp subscription here.
Teach them how to use tech
Times like this sometimes call for staying at home despite wanting to be with friends and family. While it’s not the same, the digital age has opened us to other options like Facetime, Skype and Whatsapp video calls. Taking some time out of your day to stay connected with older family members, especially the ones who live alone, can ease any loneliness that may occur from the isolation felt from social distancing measures.
It’s also a good time to introduce other forms of active engagement readily available on the Internet to the elderly. One such initiative is a collaborative video series by MCI, PA and SPH on zaobao.sg with various singing, exercising and cooking activities. Here’s an episode on how to cook ginseng chicken!
Donate to Giving.sg
Instinctively, the world has kicked into survival mode to ensure they have enough to sit out the storm. But it’s now that our society needs acts of kindness more than ever, and everybody can contribute with a click of a button thanks to Giving.sg.
In face of Covid-19, more and more campaigns are being started supporting different communities and individuals. AMKFSC, SATA CommHealth and Singapore Red Cross have started their own for senior citizens, and are accepting donations from $10 to $300 and above. They go from helping seniors in their long term recovery process all the way to providing their meals, and getting them to receive medical treatment.
You can also fund home clean-ups for elderly to keep them healthy during the Covid-19 outbreak.
For senior citizens who live alone, social distancing measures can bear some mental health consequences as many of them only have social contact outside of the house, such as at senior activity centres. With elderly depression being increasingly common (though it should not be considered a normal part of ageing), it is important that we keep an eye out for seniors who may be dealing with stress, anxiety or even loneliness during this time.
According to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older individuals may respond more strongly to crises such as Covid-19, leading to changes in sleeping and eating patterns, worsening chronic health problems and many more.
Staying connected or being there for seniors can support and relieve some of the stress they may be facing.
Other helpful tips include understanding the actual risk with accurate information, taking a break from new stories and social media when it gets too overwhelming, taking care of their body and making sure they take time to unwind.
A version of this article first appeared on Singapore Women’s Weekly.