THE CORONAVIRUS outbreak in the UK is seeing new cases of infection increasing each day – but the elderly and vulnerable are most at risk.
Last week the Government announced it's "delay" phase to help slow down the spread of the virus -with the Health Secretary ordering people aged 70 or over to self-isolate for up to four months.
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But the elderly are already experiencing levels of isolation and loneliness -with Age UK estimating around two million people aged over 75 live alone.
Around one million people aged 75 or over go for one month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or relative.
We have the tips on how to help an elderly relative, neighbour or friend during the outbreak – and help them beat loneliness during isolation.
STAY AWAY IF YOU'RE SICK
Public Health England (PHE) says that people with coronavirus symptoms – dry cough, fever, and a general feeling of listlessness – should avoid seeing older relatives to avoid passing it on.
Ahead of new guidelines being published next week, the advice is the same as for the rest of the population.
Speaking to the Telegraph, healthy ageing expert Professor Sir Muir Gray said it is important to make sure that the elderly are not sitting at home on their own.
“Isolation and loneliness are major risk factors for dementia and the coronavirus could complicate this. It’s important that people stay engaged and active,” he pointed out.
But if you are not sick or displaying coronavirus symptoms, a visit to see an elderly person can make the world of different to their daily lives.
HELP WITH SHOPPING
A great way to keep stocks of food and supplies is to mobilise elderly people with internet shopping.
But if they do not have access to the internet or are not handy with a computer, Age UK recommend that healthy, more active people help with running errands like picking up bits of shopping.
The Government is in talks with major retailers to ensure the elderly and vulnerable can still get access to supplies, such as through a telephone hotline where they can place orders.
Guidelines and further advice will be released later in the week.
AVOID VISITING GPs
Anyone showing symptoms, whether they are confirmed to have coronavirus or not, is advised to stay away from visiting their local GP surgery.
People suspected of being infected should check the NHS coronavirus webpage – and should only call 111 if they are directed to do so by the website, to avoid jamming the phone lines.
People will be asked a series of questions, including history of travel to the worst hit areas of China and northern Italy.
If you are deemed at risk, you will be asked to book a test.
Part of the mental battle of isolation is remaining as active as possible – even if this means standing up 10 times in one hour and walking between rooms in the house.
Professor Muir Gray said: “Older people can be helped to feel more positive if they engage with the world and stay active. Don’t lock them up and try to protect them.
“People are more anxious about other people than they are about themselves.
When something goes wrong with mum’s health the first thing people often do is sign her up for online shopping with Ocado. But that’s one of the worst things you can do. The most important thing is to keep her walking."
If the elderly person you are helping has a garden, encourage them to walk around it – and make sure they are not immobile for long periods of time, watching television for long periods or remaining bed bound.
ENSURE STRICT CARER GUIDELINES
Anyone who visits an older person should wash their hands before and after they visit.
Ensure carers in homes or those doing regular home visits do not attend if they are sick or displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
Anyone who is self employed can earn statutory sick pay from day one if they are unable to work due to the coronavirus.
In the event of an outbreak, care homes are urged not to shut, but instead contact Public Health England (PHE) for guidance.
GET MEDICINE DELIVERED
A number of pharmacies around the UK are making plans to deliver medication to elderly people in the event of self isolation.
USE THE INTERNET
However, older people are increasingly getting online – data from the Office for National Statistics show that 83 per cent of people aged 65 to 74 had used the internet in 2019, up from 52 per cent in 2011.
It may be worth ensuring that the older people in your life are set up with online shopping accounts now, are able to access social media to stay in touch with other or have been introduced to streaming services such as Netflix.
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