Technology can help seniors stay connected with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributes to their overall health. (Interior Savings Credit Union)

Technology can help seniors stay connected with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributes to their overall health. (Interior Savings Credit Union)

COVID-19 not the only challenge to the health of B.C. seniors

Falls, improper use of medications, and loneliness can take a toll, but risks can be alleviated

The Ambulance Paramedics of BC want to remind British Columbians why it is more important than ever to care for the more-than 900,000 seniors in our province, and have provided a few ways to help keep seniors safe.

With COVID-19, seniors face increased risks and challenges when it comes to their health and safety. Although people over the age of 60 make up just over one-quarter of B.C.’s population, they accounted for 96 per cent of COVID-19 deaths between Jan.1 and Sept. 10.

In Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton, more than 35 per cent of residents are over the age of 60. These numbers clearly demonstrate the magnified risks our senior citizens have faced during this pandemic. However, the transmission of COVID-19 is not the only effect this pandemic has had on our elderly population.

“With the need to physically distance and keep those at greatest risk safe, seniors may be receiving fewer visits from family and friends who they typically rely on for help with important tasks such as cleaning and grocery shopping,” says Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (APBC).

Clifford warns that seniors’ well-being may also be negatively impacted by their inability to access doctors and health care. “Seniors may have increased difficulty connecting with their primary care physicians and health-care specialists as the amount of available in-person appointments is reduced due to COVID-19. Some seniors may also be uncomfortable having medical appointments over the phone or by video, further impacting their access to important care.”

Megan Lawrence, public education director with APBC, asks British Columbians to check in on those they love. “We are asking British Columbians to reach out to the seniors in their lives — whether it be a family member, friend, or neighbour — and check in on them.”

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors. With seniors spending more time at home due to the pandemic, it is important that the risk of falling is mitigated by taking some simple precautions.

o Ensure all walking surfaces in the home are non-slip (including floors, bathtubs, and showers).

o Wear solid footwear with a non-slip sole. Avoid slip-on slippers, footwear that is too big or loose, or shoelaces that are not tied.

o Remove floor mats and area rugs: these are a major tripping hazard. If you must have them, ensure they are non-slip.

o Ensure all handrails are solid and consider installing grab bars in locations where you must sit and stand regularly, such as the bathroom.

o Have adequate lighting throughout the home and consider the use of night lights.

Non-compliance with medications can cause complications and put seniors at risk. Non-compliance with medication means a senior could be taking the wrong medications at the wrong time, not taking prescribed medication, or taking too much medication and risking overdose.

o Ensure that prescriptions are up to date and full. Schedule doctor’s appointments in advance to avoid running out of a prescription and medication. If you are unable to get a prescription refill before running out of the medication, talk to a pharmacist, as they may be able to provide you with an emergency supply until you are able to get to the doctor.

o Talk with the pharmacist about options for improving medication management. This could include blister-packing the medication, the use of an automated pill-dispenser, or setting up home delivery of medications.

With increased physical distancing, seniors may be receiving less in-person time with family, friends, and neighbours, creating a sense of isolation. Isolation can lead to loneliness and a sense of insecurity. Technology can help bridge the gap of human contact and keep seniors connected.

o Consider installing a medical alert system. This can greatly reduce the fear of being alone and provide peace of mind for seniors and their family, as help is always available with the simple push of a button.

o Ensure that seniors have access to a phone they are comfortable using. Consider a phone with larger buttons and a speaker for ease of use. Make a list of important or frequently used phone numbers that is easy to read, or set up speed dial.

o Where possible, use video chat to help seniors stay connected with friends and family. There are many devices, programs, apps, and platforms available for connecting by video. Talk with the senior in your life and explore the different options to see if there is one that will work for them.

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