Covid-19: Don't just quarantine the old, allow them to have a life

Here is my ten-point agenda...

By Bikram Vohra

Published: Sun 22 Mar 2020, 10:24 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Mar 2020, 12:25 AM

So much for saving Private Ryan. Now, it is the older lot.

The idea of asking the older generation to go into self-imposed isolation in order to keep them safe from the Covid-19 virus is not without good sense. But it needs a lot more support and caring and understanding than simply placing them in custody. Since many of us, old UAE hands are in that bracket what really worries us as the years pile on is the loneliness and the fragility that comes with age. Without that support system in terms of people, medical care and keeping busy, the fallout from even a couple of months of isolation could be detrimental to health.

It is not untrue to submit that many plus-70s and even older are active, healthy, independent, and even strong and productive. That is just the way things are in this generation. Experience has taught us frugality, pragmatism, and a fair level of self-preservation.

In itself the idea of ducking the virus makes sense. But there has to be some counselling and a great deal of planning that goes into the backing off. By simply expecting us to shuffle off into some ten by ten room and stay there like fugitives just will not work regardless of how well intentioned it is.

For one, there is this sense of surrender if one leaves the centre of the stage. Like you were giving up half the battle. To navigate that feeling of being lost and partly defeated, it would be best to let the older crew make the decision to go quiet on their own terms. If they wish to soften the distancing with an evening walk or some audio-video company so be it. Perhaps opening up VPN or audio-video channels would help globally for loved ones to see each other and for the elderly to be monitored.

It certainly makes it easier to bear being alone. Equally important for the frail and the medically compromised individuals irrespective of their age is to be given toys to play with. These could be mind games, learning solitaire, bridge and chess to play against the computer, anything to keep the brain functioning and exercising. That is vital. I again stress the need for visual stimulation and there is nothing better for it than talking and seeing friends of the same age group with the same problems. Which is why the phone becomes a vital piece of connectivity.

Just as in the many wars you have the underground and people hide against the enemy, those who are seeking to go under the radar should really try and make a fun thing out of it not a punishment. It is vital for the younger people to make the 'exile' comfortable to ensure that food plays an important role in keeping up the moral. There should be no hint of abandonment because that would be hugely detrimental to the general health of the senior. We tend to forget that there are a host of other infirmities that are out there exactly as they were before the virus struck.

The elderly still need treatments for those and can be as easily stricken by other ailments further underscored by depression and isolation and indifference. You might well ask what I mean by that last. Adult children can be well-meaning but sometimes thoughtless and believe that merely by placing Mum or Dad or a grandparent in a room with bed and TV absolves them of any other obligation. Many a parent in this modern age has to fend for himself or herself. So kindness has many angles and if being put in a box makes sense then do it but make it a strategy not an imposition.

Here is my ten-point agenda:

1. Make sure the room is ventilated and cleaned twice a day and there is enough antiseptic available.

2. Ensure safety railings in the bathroom, non-slip mats in the bath, and easy access to an alarm system in case of a fall or other complication.

3. Make mealtimes a fun thing, something to splash colour on a grey day so that the confined individual looks forward to each meal and you will be so surprised what a morale booster a decent tray can be.

4. Give the senior relatives tasks so they feel worthy and wanted. It is pretty simple to do and nothing is more corrosive to health than to feel redundant.

5. Extend that sense of purpose to deadlines, schedules, and most important, their opinion.value it, do not scoff it. They have been around the park.

6. If you are giving them a mobile phone (which you should) make sure they know how to use it and leave a charger with them.yeah, yeah, you will be surprised how many do not.

7. Make sure someone is on hand in the house. It is exhausting and defeating to call and have no one answer.

8. Make sure other medical conditions are not being ignored. Covid-19 is not the only disease that is out there.

9. If you have the audio-visual link legally, set it up for the senior person to chat to his creates togetherness.

10. Give them access to TV channels they wish to see not a slave unit so they are forced to watch what you watch.

We are in this together.


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