Jul 25, 2022

Eldercare and COVID: Living with the virus

In a world of different perspectives, living with COVID has different realities for each of us it affects.

In a world of different perspectives, living with COVID has different realities for each of us it affects.

Society, it seems, has become complacent in the knowledge that COVID, for most, doesn’t seem so bad after all. 

We now know how to treat people if they get sick, and we have vaccines and antivirals which assist. 

Elderly people living in residential aged care are no longer faced with probable death if infected. Most survive. So we can relax because we are now “living with the virus”.

But there are significant consequences that surround the disease itself and these are biomarkers that will mark the era of COVID times – loneliness, social isolation and despair.

As Dr Steve Cole, Director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, said, “Loneliness acts as a fertilizer for other diseases.”

For our elders, their families and friends, and staff, it’s been a long two years. Loneliness during COVID outbreaks can and must be avoided.

I’m lucky to collaborate with brave innovative service partners like Whiddon Largs Residential Care who strive for the very best psychosocial outcomes for the elders in their care. 

After fending it off for two years, Largs was inevitably visited by COVID. Initially, the entire service went into lockdown but visitation did allow one visitor for essential caring as per the support guidelines. 

Gradually they were able to open each wing as they were cleared. But one wing remained isolated a bit longer. Last month, a number of elder buddies of mine were amongst those confined to that wing to restrict the spread.

Meet SM 

Whilst *SM didn’t get COVID she had to isolate from her fellow residents. After my usual weekly in-person sessions in other areas, the Largs team were quick to jump me back to the glass for some Window Therapy to engage some of the elders in the isolated wing at their windows. 

The visit with SM was truly delightful. SM’s eyes burnt so brightly and she wore a knockout smile. SM sang with me and danced. She marvelled when she put her hand to the window and I traced around it with my pink marker. 

She adored the A4-sized photos of my baby grandson as I held them up to the glass. And we laughed and smiled a lot. It was contagious. 

A few weeks ago SM’s wing opened and is now out of isolation. No one was lost to COVID. And no one was left behind. Team Largs did a great job.

COVID isn’t going away just yet and it’s not clear how long it will stay. So it’s important for us to find ways to keep our elders motivated and connected with the outside world when the isolation arrives.

If you work in the aged care or health sector you will well understand this. So it’s important that we advocate for and amplify this message broadly.

*SM has had her name changed for privacy reasons

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  1. We all know and have heard stories of people living with COVID in residentia care but there are thousands of older Australians many living alone who are greatly affected by COVID. Included amongst these are the most vulnerable of , those living on the digital divde. For these people and I am just teetering on the edge of the divide, information is very limited. No one comes to see if they are OK. My whole family caught the virus at a family function and while I cried “I’M fine!” i was really scared stiff and worried that during one of those awful coughing spells in the middle of the night I would not be able to breathe or I’d collapse and be left alone on the floor for days.It is awful to fel crook and have to make your own cuppa and someone has to feed the dog and even feed one’s self.
    Please give a thought ffor those of us struggling alone in the suburbs.

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