Covid-19 Information

The Covid-19 vaccination can help protect you, your family, and friends by preventing the spread of this virus. Most people are aware of the benefits of having the vaccine. A person receiving both shots will have at least 94% protection from Covid-19 and have the peace of mind of not contracting the virus or passing it to others. This is twice as effective as the influenza vaccine that averages around 40% effective in fighting the flu each year. The side effects are similar to that of other vaccines and do not give the disease to those receiving the vaccine. The potential risks to older adults of having Covid-19 are far more serious than the potential side effects according to the CDC. The Covid-19 vaccine is free for everyone.

Covid-19 is not only paramount in the news, but also affects all of us individually, whether it is having to work from home, limiting trips out just for food, or socially distancing from others, including close friends and older family members. The short-term effects are more obvious with businesses closing, loss of jobs, and cancelation of school, conferences, and trips. The long-term effects are yet to be determined. It is hoped the actions of the government to provide relief with soften the economic blow of this virus.

Older adults are affected differently than others. They are at the highest risk for complications, including death, from Covid-19. The death rate for those over the age of 80 is 14.8%, the highest rate for any group according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It makes sense that much effort has been to protect this age group. Senior sites closed immediately and meals went to pick-up or home delivery. Many states have locked down nursing home facilities and assisted living communities. Many older adults who live at home have switched from having a paid caregiver to a family caregiver, as their family member is not working, thereby eliminating the cost for an outside caregiver. This has reduced the workforce needed for in-home caregiving. For the nursing facilities and assisted livings, their population is down, as accepting new residents requires testing and a 14 day quarantine. Without adequate testing available, new admissions at facilities is not possible in most areas. There are currently 300,000 open beds in facilities nationwide (CDC).

The growing concern for older adults at this time is the availability of medical assistance at emergency rooms. Older adults are high users of their local emergency departments, due to chronic health conditions, falls, and other medical issues. With Covid-19, emergency care may become difficult to obtain, especially in metropolitan areas. Without an expedient response to an older adult coming into an emergency room, there could be dire consequences. Every 11 seconds, an adult over the age of 65 is treated for injuries from a fall in an emergency room. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from the complications of a fall (CDC). The impact Covid-19 has on older adults is not just the harsh symptoms, but also the reduction in access to emergency care.

Hopefully, with social distancing, good hygiene practices, and a group mindset to protect older adults, Covid-19 will become less of a threat. With an aging America, in-home caregiving and facilities will continue to be needed. Prompt medical care with an ample supply of equipment will not be taken-for-granted. All sectors will be more prepared for anything like this in the future.

Older adults are lonely, socially isolated, and eager to rejoin friends at their local senior center, gym, or other communal gathering place. It is important for community members to reach out to older family members, neighbors, and friends during this time to check on those most vulnerable. Several months without much socialization, mental stimulation, or physical activity can lend itself to a decline in both cognitive and physical functioning. With most medical clinics closed for a period of time, non-Covid related illnesses did not get monitored. Most older adults did not have care for chronic medical conditions, like dementia, mobility, heart disease or other ongoing conditions. A decline in overall health is a possible reality for many older adults.

Rebounding from this pandemic will be difficult for all of us, but especially older adults. Older adults need to remain patient with themselves and maintain a positive attitude as much as possible. Support from others will help immensely in making appointments, arranging transportation to medical providers, and ensuring medications are filled. To help with loneliness, volunteers for telephone outreach, as well as for writing letters to homebound seniors, provide ways for seniors to connect with others. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program at our agency can link volunteers with the appropriate senior program and can be reached at 618-985-8311. During this time of moving through the phases of Covid-19, Shawnee Alliance continues to assist older adults with financial difficulties to help with the purchase of medicine, groceries, or other emergency needs, as well as assess for what is needed to keep an older adult safely in the home. Senior Centers also have funding to help with emergency needs for older adults. Assistance can be requested by calling the senior center in your area, Egyptian Area Agency on Aging at 618-985-8311 or Shawnee Alliance at 618-985-8322.

Sources: CDC.gov, New England Journal of Medicine, & www.goodrx.com

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