Health experts warn of global implications for older people in LMICs at risk of COVID-19 contagion

As many nations around the globe continue to monitor the possible implications surrounding the 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease, commonly referred to as COVID-19, public health experts are blowing the horn on current guidance procedures among older adults in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

According to a team of experts at the University of East Anglia, the dire urgency to implement more support for older adults at risk of COVID-19 should be considered in future national and global response planning. The findings appeared in the British Medical Journal.

“Although many aspects of this new infection remain uncertain, one thing is already clear. The risk of dying from COVID-19 increases with age, and most of the deaths observed are in people older than 60, especially those with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease,” researchers stated in the findings.

“This has important implications for the way in which public health and clinical responses should be developed.”

As explained in the study, the group of experts highlighted the following four concerns for older adults at risk of contagion. “In LMIC settings, there are at least four issues to consider.”

“The first is the changing family dynamics. Increasing opportunities for labour mobility mean that in many countries, one, or sometimes both, parents live and work distantly, with their children brought up by grandparents.”

“A second concern is that increasing numbers of very old people are now being cared for in nursing homes or similar facilities in LMICs. These homes are often unregulated and provide care that is of very poor quality.”

“A third problem is the ability of health systems to cope with surges in demand, especially for those needing respiratory support, a disproportionate number of whom are likely to be older.”

“A fourth issue relates to the inclusion of older people in developing responses. Social distancing policies must consider the already precarious existence of many older people, particularly those living alone or dependent on others for care and support.”

As the findings proclaimed, experts caution the current national and global responses to COVID-19, recommending more measures should transpire toward those that will potentially face the most devastating consequences.

“So far, this has not happened. We are facing an unprecedented and enormous wave of mortality among older people in these countries,” the study’s co-author, Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, argues.

“It will not be easy to deal with these problems, especially in settings where there is often weak public health infrastructure, a lack of gerontological expertise at all levels of the health system, and limited trust in government. However, a first step would be to recognise that these problems exist,” researchers concluded in the findings.

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