COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global situation. The first wave started in March of 2020 with a record number of cases worldwide. We are currently facing the second wave’s rise in many countries. The outlook is still uncertain, and vaccines are under development or clinical trials. The social distance measures, face masks, and constant handwashing remains some of the best preventive measures to reduce transmission.
The populations at risk include any person with underlying medical conditions (high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, asthma, immunosuppressed, and others) and older adults. The aged’s vulnerability increases uncertainty, loneliness, grief, anxiety, fear, depression, and mental diseases.
The risks of developing severe illness and the importance of maintaining good nutrition, physical activity, and socialization to enhance mental health and resilience must be taken seriously by caregivers, family, and the elders themselves.
This article aims to provide different measures and recommendations, especially in older adults, to avoid infection and keep a harmonious lifestyle.
Tips to keep a healthy body and mind
- Healthy eating improves overall immunity. Include all food groups in balanced portions three times a day.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and add whole grains rich in fiber. This will maintain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in balance, and it will increase the satiety after meals and prevent overeating.
- The risk of dehydration increases with age since the body water content decreases. It is essential to ensure appropriate fluids intake by drinking water (6–8 glasses per day). Avoid sugary beverages, strong caffeinated drinks, and reduce alcohol consumption.
- Nourish yourself with adequate quality proteins like poultry, eggs, beans, and tuna to improve muscle atrophy.
- Limit salt consumption to less than 5g per day, no more than six teaspoons of sugar, and avoid trans fat consumption.
- Consume immune-boosting minerals found in dairy products, seafood, and vegetables.
- Correct hygiene in preparation is crucial to avoid contamination with the virus or any other pathogen. Disinfect fruits and vegetables, clean your hands, kitchen, and utensils frequently.
There are nutritional security measures for adults who live with economic problems or live alone during this pandemic. In California, USA, there is a balanced food supply program known as “Great Plates Delivered” to seniors at risk of COVID-19. Other plans have also been implemented in other states with the aim to implement more significant nutritional support and decrease the chances of developing COVID.
Courtesy: Anas Maarawi Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
2. Simple physical activity: The daily recommendation is to do at least 30 mins per day, but it is possible to start with 30 mins every two days until maintaining a weekly goal. You can start with short walks, gentle aerobics, or family exercise (remembering to social distance if you’re not in the same household). Inside the home, you can include easy activities such as strengthening like wall push-ups or step up and down or stretch the low back, neck, and calf.
Courtesy: Fairfax County . Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
3. Yoga: Is an excellent tool since it improves strength, balance, postural stability, mental well-being and reduces the risk of falls.
4. Keep the mind active: Read, listen to your favorite music, watch something you like, do crossword puzzles, and challenge your mind with board games. Remember, it is never too late to learn new things, appreciate small things, or pick up good habits.
5. Maintain social interaction with others: Considering the social distance measures, when you can’t meet face to face, you can stay in touch with friends and family through social media, telephone, or video calls. In many cases, social distancing can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are many lines available to receive professional help (links below).
6. Ensure adequate care: Many elders require caregivers that are responsible for supporting their mental health by providing sufficient emotional support, ensuring their basic needs, safety, autonomy, and dignity. You should also see the above tips regarding encouraging healthy habits, ensuring nutrition and physical activity.
In case the person already has a pre-existing mental condition, review appropriate medications and other specific health measures for each particular case.
7. Mental health: The response to stress during this pandemic varies between individuals, pre- existing mental diseases, personal background, and many other factors.
- Avoid absorbing too much information by watching the news or through social media. Take breaks to calm yourself.
- Body health must include a healthy diet, regular exercise, meditation (if possible), and avoiding nocive stimulus, drugs, or alcohol.
- Connect through social distancing considering online resources, phone or mail to keep contact with your community, friends, people you trust, family, etc.
- Continue your treatment and medical follow-up if you have a pre-existing medical condition. -Be aware of the official immediate helplines and websites if needed.
8. When should I consider professional help? It might be difficult to notice symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental condition during social distancing. In case you experience any of these symptoms, consider calling you a medical provider or professional help:
- Mood changes can include a constant feeling of fear, worry, sadness, frustration, anger with subsequent daily energy changes to perform activities, appetite, and sleeping patterns.
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Physical problems like general pain, muscular aches, gastrointestinal and stomach problems, cutaneous rashes, headache
- Substance, alcohol, or drug abuse