For seniors, the Covid-19 pandemic creates a difficult situation: they are at a greater risk of contracting the disease and more likely to acquire and die from serious infections. Also, they are the most likely to feel the effects of preventive measures, such as social distancing and suffer from them. Social distancing recommendations can be difficult to understand for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – making prevention and care much more complicated.
COVID-19’s Direct Impact on Seniors
Seniors have been heavily impacted by the virus because diseases like diabetes and hypertension are also present, making them more likely to be hospitalized. Doctors are not sure why these factors make the symptoms of the virus worse, but both factors are associated with higher expression on human cells of the ACE2 receptor, a protein that the coronavirus holds on to begin to replicate.
There is also persistent, low-grade inflammation in many older adults, in which the body is unable to regulate the release of cytokines – tiny proteins that are expected to help modulate the immune response of the body. This dysregulation could place seniors at great risk of “cytokine storms,” a disorder recorded in serious cases of Covid-19 during which the immune system of a patient spins out of control and begins to damage healthy organs.
Senior’s Susceptible Immune System
Immunosenescence is a gradual weakening of the immune system that is a common part of aging, making seniors more susceptible. The immune system has a wide pool of T-cells and B-cells ready to combat infections when individuals are young.
These are referred to as “naive cells,” which means they have not yet encountered bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens. Some of them learn to recognize the pathogen, so when these naive cells experience an infection they become ready to fight it off if the body is exposed to it again.
It’s difficult for us to produce new ones, although some individuals seem to maintain that skill more than others. That means the body of the person will have a less robust response to the immune system than it would have done when they were younger.
Immunosenescence causes illnesses to appear differently in seniors, which may make it difficult for their physicians or caregivers to detect a Covid-19 infection. The typical Covid-19 symptom is a fever, but the symptoms can also include fatigue, delirium, sleepiness, or lack of appetite in older people. That may be because significant organs such as the brain, kidneys, or digestive system have been reached by the virus. As one gets older, the virus can invade without being resisted as much, and then some really bad things begin to happen.
The Risk of Senior Life
Seniors are not only more biologically vulnerable, but many of them live in conditions that make catching the virus more likely because they associate with other individuals on a regular basis. Some seniors live in their own homes and receive help from health workers who take public transport, serve several patients, and are unable to shelter in place while doing their job.
Social distance can trigger isolation and loneliness for older adults living in their homes. Many of the places people go to socialize are closed, including senior centers, libraries, schools, mosques, or synagogues. Even families aren’t recommended to visit causing a wave of isolation to be triggered, which can lead to significant health issues, including impaired cognitive performance, elevated blood pressure, and heart disease.
COVID-19’s Effect on Dementia
Things become more difficult for people with dementia – such as them not knowing that they need to wash their hands or refrain from touching their face more often. Also, patients with dementia wander about sometimes. They can walk in and out of the rooms of other patients, down the corridor, or into shared living areas in communal living or care facilities, both of which increase the risk of catching and transmitting the disease.
If they end up in the hospital in an unfamiliar place like a hospital room, Covid-19 symptoms can intensify their confusion and delirium. When they are separated from their families or their normal caregivers, these patients may be frightened and are tended to by staff wrapped head-to-toe in protective gowns and masks. Patients are also alone for most of the day as nurses attempt to minimize patient interactions to decrease the need for this protective gear. All of these factors can be difficult for someone with dementia to comprehend, making COVID-19 an even more traumatic experience for them.
Entrust of DeSoto: A Resident-centric Memory Care Community in Dallas, Texas
Entrust of DeSoto is a memory care community that puts resident well-being at the center of everything we do. We know that each person is unique. That’s why we offer a wide range of services and lifestyle options to nourish the body and create community.
We understand the importance of home-cooked meals and nutrition for seniors and this attitude is reflected in our dining experience. If you or a loved one live near Dallas, Texas, and need assisted living, contact Entrust of DeSoto today to learn about our 24-hour care and find out how we can help.