Taking care of our routes: the elderly in the time of COVID-19

old woman

(CDC, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Harman Singh Bhatia, a second year psychiatry resident and Ms. Purva Shah, an intern doctor, both of them at Baroda Medical College and SSG Hospital, India. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Our elders, as shown in The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, form the eternally strong and culturally significant roots of our civilisation that has spread its branches into various walks of life. However, in times of crisis, like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the elderly population is the most affected. 95% of deaths due to this novel virus occurred in those older than 60 years.1 While case fatality rates (CFR) vary from less than 1 to 7% across countries, the CFR for patients older than 80 years goes up to 15%.2,3 Following are some of the many reasons why elderly population bears the brunt of this pandemic in terms of anxiety, stress, and mental health abnormalities.1,3

  • Due to physiological changes of ageing, they have a weak immune system and consequently, a higher susceptibility to falling ill.4
  • Higher prevalence of co-morbidities makes them liable to more hospital visits than the general population where they face sub-standard care since most of the best resources in hospitals are directed towards fighting Covid-19.
  • A high incidence of disabilities in this population not only makes them dependent on caregivers but also elevates their exposure to the virus through use of wheelchair, crutches, stairway railings et cetera.5
  • Cognitive decline and dementia in old age leads to non-acceptance of changes in lifestyle as required during lockdown.
  • Those living in nursing or retirement homes are at a greater risk of infection as a result of crowding in closed spaces while those living alone and dependent on retirement pension for their livelihood face a whole array of problems that come with poverty.
  • They face stigma and neglect from certain caregivers and sometimes, are left to fend for themselves in case the caregiver is quarantined.
  • They aren’t able to access online services like e-banking, online shopping, telemedicine, social media, and video calling due to which they are pushed into social isolation and deprived of important and relevant information.
  • As a consequence of a shortage of ventilators and effective medicines, these resources are channelled towards healthier and younger demographics. The psychological welfare of doctors who have to send them back without treatment is equally at risk if not more.2

So what can we do to alleviate if not completely eradicate the ill-effects of this pandemic on the mental health of the geriatric population?

  • Ask them about their day, ask them if they’ve been feeling ill, explain the effect of Covid-19 pandemic and rules of lockdown to them calmly, patiently, clearly, and if needed, repeatedly. Organise old photos, share old stories, learn new recipes from them, and try to keep them engaged in household activities.6
  • Help them become techno savvy! Download essential applications on their phone related to healthcare and credible information about current affairs. Teach them how to video call their near and dear ones because as Dr. Kluge correctly asserted,”physical distancing is not social isolation.”1
  • Through telemedicine, doctors can follow-up patients with long term illnesses and also solve their doubts regarding their health without the need for hospitalisation.
  • As neighbours of old people, you can fetch groceries, medicines, and other items of everyday use for them.
  • Caregivers can create customised care plans to not only reduce emergency visits and improve medical management but also, improve their overall state of mind.7 Having a structured routine and performing mild exercises at home go a long way to keep their minds fresh and free of ailments.

Our elders, our giving trees, continue to burn themselves to give us warmth in the form of retired doctors, army men, and nurses coming to the frontline to fight against SARS-CoV-2. In this hour of need, ‘ok boomer’ has got to transform into ‘take care boomer.’


  1. http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/news/news/2020/4/supporting-older-people-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-is-everyones-business
  2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30165-X/fulltext
  3. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-elderly-older-people-health-risk/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3582124/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3266513/
  6. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-caregiving-for-the-elderly
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/caregivers-month.html

About the authors

Harman is a second year psychiatry resident at Baroda Medical College and SSG Hospital, India. As an undergraduate, he secured top positions in quizzes of various specialties like dermatology, biochemistry, and microbiology. Always empathetic to the suffering of his patients, he tries to provide a wholesome care and believe that customised treatment is the norm of the day. He is deeply interested in how obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is being rationalised by the ongoing pandemic and aims to get to the root of this situation. He is also performing a research study at his set-up to compare the quality of life and caregiver burden between Schizophrenia and Depressive Disorders.

Purva is an intern doctor at Baroda Medical College and SSG Hospital, India. She worked under Dr. August Lynne to find a relationship between lipids and the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. She is the LORE (Local Officer for Research Exchange) in MSAI, IFMSA and the State Joint Secretary in AIMSA (All India Medical Student Association) for the year 2019-20. She has the medical head for a local NGO where they are trying to improve the health and sanitation of slum kids. Having published papers on thyroid disorders and novel diagnostic criteria for anaemia and having secured STS-ICMR, 2019-20, she wishes to dive deep into the world of research.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Force used against protestors in Gaza ‘wholly disproportionate’ says UN human rights chief

A more credible, dynamic, predictable and political EU accession process – Commission lays out its proposals

The world’s most vulnerable must be protected: WHO briefing

Special measures for Greece: 100% absorption rate

Quality education an ‘essential pillar’ of a better future, says UN chief

Iraq: Solutions needed ‘urgently’ to quell ongoing violence, break political deadlock

How banking with blockchain can stamp out corruption and increase financial inclusion

iSting: Change Europe with your Writing

Finland must focus on integrating migrant women and their children to boost their contribution to the economy and society

UN chief welcomes power-sharing deal between Sudanese military and opposition

Parliament sets up plan to fight the 3,600 criminal rings of EU

The developing countries keep the world going

On World Day to Combat Desertification, UN shines spotlight on ‘true value’ of land

Ukraine: turning challenges into opportunities

Bacteria vs. humans: how to fight in this world war?

World Retail Congress Dubai 2016: Retail’s night of nights

Global warming: our responsibility

UN chief welcomes ‘positive steps’ towards peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia

‘Undersea gardeners’ are restoring Jamaica’s lost coral reefs

Climate change and health: Raising awareness is the key for greener actions

George Floyd: these are the injustices that led to the protests in the United States

EU Parliament: It takes real banks to fight unemployment and recession

Smart city experts should be looking to emerging markets. Here’s why

EU approves disbursement of €500 million in Macro-Financial Assistance to Ukraine

Destabilizing Lebanon after burning Syria; plotting putsch at home: King and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

Emerging legislation on commercial uses of facial recognition shows the work ahead

FROM THE FIELD: South Sudan’s green shoots, highlight environmental recovery from war

FROM THE FIELD: Free tutorials in Mali, ‘a life-saver’ for Fatouma

These patients are sharing their data to improve healthcare standards

UN experts urge India to align new anti-trafficking bill with human rights law

Where America’s refugees came from in 2018

The importance of collaboration in the digital economy

Passwords should become a thing of the past. Here’s why

To entrepreneurship and beyond!

German egotistic inward turn to badly hurt Europe after Merkel’s exit

The importance of the strategy of health of a country working in accordance with the theory

Make the internet safer: stop using passwords

UN chief hopeful for Libya, after Quartet meeting in Tunis

Ahead of State of the Union the European Youth Forum highlights lack of action on youth employment

How will the NATO-EU competition evolve in the post Brexit era?

Friday’s Daily Brief: hunger in North Korea, human rights in Iran, updates on DR Congo and Benin

Macron in St. Petersburg didn’t oppose Trump on Iran, in Putin’s presence

Impact of high debt levels on least developed countries ‘cannot be overstated’, says UN

The built environment has a huge role to play in improving health and wellbeing

A rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the war-torn Yemen

‘Terrorist Iranian regime’ must be checked; Saudi Foreign Minister urges financial pressure

EU Budget: InvestEU Programme to support jobs, growth and innovation in Europe

International community urged to deliver on promise for better future for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Cohesion Policy: involving citizens to ensure better results

UNICEF appeals for end to ‘war on children’ in Syria and Yemen

The sustainable fashion revolution is well underway. These 5 trends prove it

‘Negative forces’ at work in DR Congo threaten ‘largely peaceful’ relations across Great Lakes region, says outgoing UN envoy

The Commission tries to stop the ‘party’ with the structural funds

It’s a lie Eurozone isn’t competitive

Brexit must not put UK university research at risk

OECD joins with Argentina to fight financial crime

Ahead of key UN-backed Marrakech migration conference, youth recount harrowing journeys

Eurozone: Sovereign debt decreases for the first time since 2007

Youth and children in Europe set the new perspectives for the decades to come

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s