COVID’s Impact on Senior Health

covid news for seniors

It was nearly three years ago when COVID-19 roared across the world and changed our lives forever. According to The New York Times, there have been almost 100 million cases of COVID reported across the United States since 2020, with over 1 million deaths. Today, as we head into the flu and cold season, there are about 38,000 cases reported over the span of one week – so there’s no doubt coronavirus is still with us and causing problems, especially for those who aren’t vaccinated[1].

Staying up-to-date on the ever-changing landscape of COVID is essential to maintaining good senior health. Paying attention to new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on everything from how to protect yourself from the virus to understanding the variety of medications available can keep you informed and help you stay safer as the pandemic continues.

Paxlovid Treatment Can Interfere with Heart Medications

If you do wind up with COVID, there are now several medications that can help ease the symptoms and prevent you from developing severe illness. One of those is called Paxlovid, which can greatly benefit those who have a history of cardiovascular disease. However, a new study has found that those who are taking certain medications for heart health might face dangerous drug interactions if they take Paxlovid.

Additionally, some cholesterol medications taken along with Paxlovid can lead to liver toxicity, while some blood pressure medications can interact with the treatment and lead to low blood pressure, swelling, and flushing of the skin. Perhaps more seriously, those on certain blood thinners can face a greater risk of bleeding when they take Paxlovid[2].

The good news is that many drugs that interact can be stopped for the five-day period of treatment with Paxlovid. This includes statins, as there is no risk to stopping them for a short period of time. But if you are on medications that can’t be safely interrupted, the study authors say that Paxlovid isn’t a good idea for you[3].

Seniors and Boosters

As coronavirus continues to spread and affect our everyday lives, scientists are constantly working on new treatments. However, those treatments are often based on the older variants that have already infected people, and might not cover new variants.

While some treatments might not be effective against certain subvariants, booster shots can provide the protection you need. The latest booster shots were created to offer some protection against the effects of Omicron, and the current variants of that – most notably BA.2 and BA.5. Experts recommend getting the booster before Halloween so seniors can enjoy time with family around Thanksgiving[4].

Dr. Ashish Jha, the leader of the White House COVID task force, said that 70% of those who are dying of COVID are the elderly, aged 75 and older. In most cases, those who die of COVID are either not vaccinated or they don’t receive proper treatment for a breakthrough infection. “If you are up to date with your vaccines and if you get treated if you have a breakthrough infection, your risk of dying from COVID is now close to zero,” Jha said.

Health officials expect COVID infections to increase from November through January. Staying proactive and paying attention to your health can help you avoid serious problems. In addition to making sure you have the vaccines and boosters as recommended, stay as healthy as you can by eating well, exercising regularly, taking your medications on time, and investing in safety features that may include medical alert technology.

Is it the Flu, COVID, or Something Else?

Just to complicate matters, traditional cold and flu season is fast approaching. Throw COVID into the mix and if you do get sick, you might wonder which of the three you have. While the most typical symptoms overlap – including sore throat, coughing, and a runny nose – there are some distinct signs that can point to a particular infection[5].

If you have the common cold, you can expect:

·         Sore throat

·         Coughing

·         Runny nose

·         Sneezing

·         Headaches

·         Body aches

Notably, you probably won’t run a fever when you have the common cold.

When you have the flu, you might experience the following symptoms:

·         Sore throat

·         Coughing

·         Runny nose

·         Fever and chills

·         Body aches

·         Headache

·         Fatigue

·         Vomiting or diarrhea

If it’s COVID, your symptoms might be a little different:

·         Fever and chills

·         Coughing

·         Sore throat

·         Runny nose

·         Headache

·         Fatigue

·         Shortness of breath

·         Body aches

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Loss of taste or smell

It’s a very good idea to have a handful of COVID tests at home so you can determine if what you have is coronavirus. If you are testing on the second day of symptoms and getting a negative result, you might have the flu. Either way, it’s best to isolate until you are feeling better so you don’t run the risk of giving the virus to others[6].

Whether you are suffering from the flu, COVID, or the common cold, stay safe and secure while you are feeling under the weather. The fatigue, weakness, and overall malaise that can result from any of these infections calls for fall prevention measures. Falls are unfortunately common among the elderly and can result in serious injury or even death[7].

You can lower the risk of long-term consequences from injury if you have an emergency response system. By simply pressing the button on a medical alert pendant or watch, you can get help immediately in any emergency or accident. Prompt medical attention can mean the difference between a good outcome and a very poor one.

Proof That Vaccinations Work

When scientists are curious about a health issue concerning the elderly population, their studies often take place in long-term care facilities. One good reason is that the population of seniors there are in a more controlled environment than those who are aging in place at home. When it comes to COVID, scientists have learned a great deal about how it affects the elderly through studies conducted in these facilities.

A study in the Netherlands, reported in Science Direct, looked at a population of elderly residents in long-term care who were exposed to or contracted COVID. Among the 105 residents studied, 70 of those who were exposed contracted COVID – that’s a rate of 67%. However, there is good news: those who were fully vaccinated had a 70% reduced mortality rate, and no one who had received their boosters died of COVID.

This study proved that while vaccinations might not prevent COVID, they certainly reduce the risk of dying from the virus by a very significant amount[8].

What does this mean for you? While vaccinations are essential to protecting yourself from COVID, boosters are also incredibly important. Talk to your doctor about when you should get your booster and follow their recommendations.

It’s always a good time for seniors to consider medical alert systems with fall detection. These systems from Alert1 can provide peace of mind for seniors and their families.

Long COVID is a Serious Issue for Elderly Adults

Kaiser Health News reports that seniors who survived COVID were much more likely than younger patients to develop long COVID – including fatigue, muscle aches, heart and lung issues, headaches, joint pain, and brain fog that is often associated with the condition.

However, it can be tough to diagnose Long COVID in the elderly, as it often mimics other problems that might already be present. For instance, someone who already has heart disease might feel increased heart palpitations, but it’s hard to know if that’s long COVID or a progression of their underlying condition.

If you think you might have long COVID, take this advice to heart:

·         Get medical attention. If you’re still not feeling like yourself one or two months after a COVID infection, it’s time to get checked out. If your doctor isn’t sure what’s happening or doesn’t know what tests to try, ask for a referral to a specialist, particularly one who has experience in treating patients with long COVID.

·         Care for senior whole health. This means ensuring that any chronic conditions are well-managed and well-controlled. To that end, take your medications exactly as directed, stay up-to-date on your doctor’s appointments, and make the lifestyle changes you might need to stay as healthy as possible. When you are in good health to begin with, it’s easier to spot long COVID.

·         Take your time. Seniors tend to lose strength after a severe illness, and COVID is no exception. Even standing up out of bed can lead to dizziness or other troublesome symptoms. Be kind to yourself as you recover from a COVID infection. It’s a good idea to drink more fluids, wear compression socks to prevent blood clots, and slowly start exercising again, doing only five or ten minutes at a time[9]. 

·         Don’t expect too much of yourself. As we get older, bouncing back from illness becomes more difficult. COVID can be quite serious and so it makes sense that it takes longer to recover from it. Since long COVID can be more severe in seniors, it’s important to go slow, pace yourself, and expect that you will have less energy and need more rest for a while.

Now that you’re up-to-date on the latest news on COVID, start thinking about ways to protect yourself from the virus, such as timely vaccinations and boosters. And affordable in-home or on-the-go medical alert systems, with or without fall detection, are always recommended to ensure safety and protection for seniors 24/7.