Specialised care for the elderly during the COVID-19 crisis

Doctors in Chennai offer services to support senior citizens in every possible way, without them having to step out of their homes

“Anxiety and panic is gripping the geriatric population now. Let me assure you that those above the age of 65 are safe as long as they do not expose themselves. Staying completely locked down within their homes will safeguard them,” says Dr Lakshmipathy Ramesh, practising geriatrician, and founder Geri Care, Chennai. “If they are living as a joint family with their sons/daughters, I would suggest that they stay in their room during this lockdown period and avoid coming into contact with other younger members of the family,” he says.

Going by trends across the globe, the elderly seem to be more at risk if they are infected by the Coronavirus; they require more protection during these times. Dr Kannan Pugazhendi, sports medicine expert and founder of SPARRC Sports and Fitness Medicine Centre, says, “We are conducting a geriatric camp for this population via an online platform beginning April 2.”

At Geri Care, there is a team of four doctors who offer tele-consultation services round the clock for their existing patients as well as new. “From a psychological perspective, elderly patients feel assured and communicate well if they see the doctor face to face, which is why we have started video consultations. This way, it is easier for us to assess their condition and anxiety levels,” says Dr Lakshmipathy. Ever since the COVID-19 threat surfaced in our country, he has been receiving calls from senior citizens seeking clarifications about various vaccines and medicines to contain the virus, based on information circulated on social media and WhatsApp forwards. Often, he gets distress calls from anxious elderly people. “Couples whose children are living abroad seem to be more worried. We have been advising them to stay indoors, stock up on medicines for two months, follow their diet carefully so that their BP and sugar levels are maintained during the lockdown,” he adds.

Mobility is essential for the geriatric population, and even a minimal stretch or movement gives them immense benefit, and slows degeneration. “We strictly advise senior citizens to avoid going for a walk during this period, but we encourage them to do some simple isometric exercises to strengthen their muscles, or do yoga, basic breathing exercises and meditation,” Dr Lakshmipathy says. The Geri Care team suggests that they not do physiotherapy until the lockdown ends as outside contact is to be completely eliminated. Elderly people are also advised to stay hydrated.

“At SPARRC, we have divided our geriatric patients into various groups based on their medical history; for example, we have the neurogeriatric group, cardiogeriatric and so on, where we give specific exercises and therapy assisted by the physiotherapist. But now, because they are all completely cut off from the world, we have decided to conduct 30-minute therapy sessions via an online platform,” says Sujatha Pugazhendi, managing director of SPARRC. Guided by therapists, the elderly can follow instructions and do stretches, most of which can be done seated.

The online geriatric camp is being implemented using the app Paindoctoronline, which is senior citizen friendly, where every day, they would conduct 20 minutes of one-on-one sessions, with slots segregated according to age, mobility and health background. “All they have to do is call us on the telephone number given and we send them the link via text message and they have to click on it to get connected. For those who need assistance, we request one of their family members to assist them,” says Sujatha.

“We will take a holistic approach to health and will focus on geriatric-specific aspects with minimal exercises. I will however lay emphasis on yoga. For some people, I will be giving proprioception training to improve quality of movement,” says Dr Kannan. He says that breathing exercises are essential. “Without taxing their cardiovascular system by way of exercise, we can achieve the same by various types of breathing practices.”

“The elderly should understand how COVID-19 spreads and accordingly take necessary precautions. As they should not step out even for medical consultation, we are willing to support them from a distance. It is also the best time for them to talk to their family members virtually and stay connected. And most importantly, be cheerful,” says Dr Lakshmipathy.

Move and heal

  • The SPARRC Institute offers a free geriatric camp from April 2 onwards. Once they register, there will be an assessment by a therapist over the phone, and after that an app-based consultation with Dr Kannan. Then they will be given a time slot for the exercise sessions. For participation, call 9659650000. Those who are in different time zones and wish to participate, can log on to www.sparrc.com, and click on video chat.
  • Geri Care offers tele consultation as well as video call consultation during the lockdown period free of cost. Their team of doctors and paramedical staff are available for house visits as well. For assistance, call 9944459444. More details at: www.gericare.in

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