Romania is among the European countries currently facing the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Studies confirm that the mortality rate due to COVID-19 increases with age. Given the results of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, infection prevention should be the priority of public and private health professionals. One method of preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections among the elderly may involve implementing procedures to limit the spread of the pathogen and providing education to health care personnel to reduce any gaps in knowledge about the spread of the virus and post-infection.
There is no clear evidence of increased risk of infection among elderly patients, but old age is reported as an independent risk factor for both death from SARS-CoV-2 and a severe course of infection. It has been shown that patients over 60 years of age and with severe pre-existing conditions are at higher risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome. In a study by Chinese researchers, a higher rate of infection among the elderly was not clear, but their analysis showed higher mortality in this age group.
Current evidence suggests that the virus is mainly transmitted through respiratory droplets. Aerosol transmission is possible under certain conditions, especially in closed, crowded and poorly ventilated spaces where the infected person spends a lot of time with others. Infection can also occur during patient care if procedures are carried out that cause aerosol formation. The virus can spread when infected people sneeze, cough or touch surfaces or objects such as countertops, railings or doorknobs. Other people can contract the virus by touching these contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth without washing their hands.
Based on the manner of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection in the elderly and those with co-morbidities, a number of preventive measures have been recommended. Reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in groups particularly susceptible to its adverse outcomes should become a priority for public and private health professionals.
Particular attention should be paid to all residential care facilities or nursing homes. Reports suggest that older adults are at increased risk of severe disease, morbidity and mortality and that risk increases with age and with certain comorbidities (other medical conditions) such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. Older adults and high-risk patients should engage in routine preventive actions to avoid infection, including frequent hand cleaning with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoiding non-family members or those with exposure or infection to COVID-19, and staying up-to-date on vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.
Most likely, Alzheimer’s and other dementias do not increase the risk of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, just as dementia does not increase the risk of influenza. However, dementia-related behaviours, older age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk. For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease and any other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent getting sick. In addition, illnesses such as COVID-19 and influenza can worsen cognitive impairment due to dementia and for this reason caregivers consider the risks and take extra safety precautions for people with dementia.
While many hospitals restrict or limit visitors to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect patients and staff, there are still ways to support people with dementia during hospitalization. We allow visits from care partners of people with dementia if they are essential to the person’s physical or emotional well-being.
If you are visiting someone who is ill:
- make sure you familiarise yourself with the safety requirements beforehand;
- bring your own face mask and put it on before arriving at the unit;
- wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face;
- limit your visit to the person’s room and avoid going to other locations in the building.
If you cannot visit in person:
- communicate with the person by phone or video call;
- give your contact information to the nurse and find out what kind of communication will be possible and how you can expect to receive news.
The fight against COVID-19 continues globally and to ensure success, people’s adherence to preventive measures is essential.