Protect the elders at this crucial moment - Dr. Lasantha Ganewatta | Sunday Observer

Protect the elders at this crucial moment - Dr. Lasantha Ganewatta

Dr. Lasantha Ganewatta
Dr. Lasantha Ganewatta

The elderly, being a vulnerable group should stay at home without going out. It is advisable that they wear a proper face mask when they go out and carry the minimum items required in a covered bag, including a hand sanitizer. Try to avoid public transport and in case of using public transport clean your hands afterwards. Make sure to spend the least possible time for the visit. On returning, wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds and wash your clothes properly and dry them under sunlight. Don’t forget to have a body wash as well, Dr. Lasantha Ganewatta told the Sunday Observer.

 According to Dr. Ganewatta, if they developed fever, cough, sore throat or any breathing problem, they should go to the closest government hospital and seek medical advice. At present all government hospitals follow a uniform guideline formulated by the Health Ministry of Sri Lanka considering the prevailing situation. There is no reason to panic to follow this procedure.

 Dr. Ganewatta pointed out that if an elderly gets any other acute illness, they should go to a hospital to obtain any emergency service that may be required. Out-patient clinics are conducted as usual. Since I am actively engaged in implementing a safe and efficient system in our hospitals according to directions provided by the Health Ministry, I assure you that the said services are delivered without any disturbance.

 The elders should drink adequate amounts of liquids to optimize their hydration as dehydration is a risk factor to become ill. Try to consume a balanced diet with good protein such as meat, fish, eggs, pulses, legumes.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of Vitamin C and minerals like zinc would boost immunity especially against respiratory tract infections. They should stay mentally and physically active. Positive thinking is important as social isolation can trigger depression. You could restore your social networking by using remote technology such as the phone, internet, and social media. Most importantly the elders should try to avoid indoor accidents especially falls which carry higher mortality and morbidity than COVID-19, she said. 

The elders carry a higher mortality and morbidity rate due to frailty, higher number of co-mobilities, and they lack the biological and physiological in-built reserve. In addition many elders suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchiectasis, lung fibrosis, etc. As their immune system is poor, in this background if they acquire a virulent infection like COVID-19, they carry higher morbidity and mortality.  As there is no specific treatment to date the end result would be alarming. On the other hand, in this restricted environment elders might not have the opportunity to reach health care facility at the onset of the disease, she said.

If I explain the recent experience in China where the outbreak began in Wuhan, the mortality rate between the age group 60-69 is 3.6%, 70-79 is 8% and 80 or above, it is 15%.

In comparison with similar viruses, COVID-19 is more likely to affect the heart as they have seen people dying from heart attacks. Therefore, it is evident that there’s a direct correlation between mortality and age, she added.