Older people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, so with New Zealand easing its COVID restrictions, it’s important to know what steps we can take to help protect our elderly loved ones.
From March 25, New Zealand remains on the highest COVID alert level of red, but the settings for this level have changed, making life a lot freer for us.
Masks are no longer required outdoors and there will be no limits on outdoor activities like gatherings and events as long as everyone has a My Vaccine Pass.
However, where vulnerable older New Zealanders are concerned, additional protection measures may be advisable.
Here are some measures to consider when trying to protect your ageing loved one from COVID:
While wearing masks doesn’t prevent us from getting COVID (they help protect us from infecting others if we’re positive), it is worth considering the added protection that comes from you and your loved one wearing masks, even if outdoors. In addition to reducing the rate of COVID transmission, it also helps protect your older loved one from other illnesses such as influenza. The incidence of influenza is likely to increase this year as mask rules relax and with more people out and about in the community.
It’s important to maintain awareness and adherence of our one-metre social distancing rules, particularly around our older New Zealanders, where possible. Take whatever steps you can to limit physical contact while also maintaining social and emotional connection.
Rethinking activities and outings
We’re all looking forward to more freedom as COVID restrictions lessen and your older loved ones are no different, but it might be prudent to think about the ways that activities and outings can be managed in order to optimise protection of those most vulnerable.
If you’re heading to the supermarket, maybe consider going at a time when it is less crowded or consider using a delivery service so that the trip out isn’t needed. Outdoor concerts might be preferable over indoor events. If you’re having a large family gathering at home, think about where your ageing loved ones can be positioned so that they are in well-ventilated areas and not hemmed in by others. Consider having hand sanitiser at the front door and in your handbag so hands can be sanitised before getting into your vehicle or going into the house.
Regular health checks
Regular health checks are always recommended for older New Zealanders and those with chronic diseases, but COVID-19 has heightened the need for these. Your ageing loved one is more likely to be protected from COVID if they are healthy and not battling other illnesses.
Make sure your older loved one’s vaccinations are up to date. This includes vaccination and booster shots for COVID-19 as well as influenza and pneumonia. Having these up to date reduces the likelihood of your loved one becoming ill with any of these diseases or a secondary infection.
Our older New Zealanders might be feeling the mental health impact of two years of serious disruption and social isolation. Making sure they are feeling connected with family and friends and have the contact they need – without increasing their vulnerability to COVID – is essential to their mental health. If they are hesitant to go out, make time to visit regularly to check on their well-being. Phone calls, video calls, texts, and emails can all help to reduce social isolation in between visits.
How Home Instead Can Help
Home Instead helps with a range of personal and lifestyle needs for older New Zealanders. If your ageing loved one is feeling isolated and you are unable to visit regularly due to location or other commitments, we can provide welcome companionship. As a specialist provider of high quality, relationship-based, in-home care, we can also assist with personal care, light household duties, meal preparation, medication reminders, and transport to appointments and for shopping. We take personal responsibility for providing the best in-home care and support to meet our clients’ needs and are committed to addressing the individual and national challenges of New Zealand’s ageing population.