By Lindsey Turnbull
An emerging statistic coming out of the COVID-19 corona virus pandemic is the vulnerability of the elderly, who, should they contract the virus, are considerably more likely to die than younger generations. For this reason, the community is now being asked to play its part in protecting this vulnerable group.
Within local communities, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), operated by Hazard Management, is gearing up to ensuring that the elder generation is protected. In the Prospect/Red Bay area, for example, neighbours are being asked to update their information on a What’s App group and to include information such as whether there are any seniors within the household over 70, whether there are any disabled or bedridden people in the home and whether there are any people medically trained. In this way the CERT teams can assess who is vulnerable and who can help in a time of crisis.
Maintain a distance
An important step in preventing the elderly from catching the corona virus is to maintain a distance from them. To this end, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has suspended all social visits until further notice to the Kirkconnell Community Care Centre, Cayman Brac; Golden Age Home and Maple House in Grand Cayman.
“Older people and vulnerable individuals have increased susceptibility to the upper respiratory complications caused by coronavirus. Some are immunosuppressed with chronic ailments including heart disease, diabetes and asthma. Other residents have a range of underlying health conditions; therefore, this decision is being undertaken in the best interests of the home's residents,” the DCFS stated.
The department said they were mindful that this decision would be difficult for some residents and their families, so they were exploring alternative methods of maintaining contact between residents and their families. Staff were also keeping residents engaged through a variety of indoor and outdoor activities within their respective facilities, they said.
“Given the rapidly evolving situation, this isolation measure will be reviewed periodically and will be lifted once the threat is known to have diminished sufficiently,” the DCFS stated.
At Monday’s press conference on the corona virus, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced that flights between the Sister islands and Grand Cayman would be temporarily restricted. This was to try and ensure that the elderly on Cayman Brac were not exposed to the deadly virus.
“Inter-Island flights will continue; however, flights from Grand Cayman into Cayman Brac and Little Cayman will be restricted to residents and essential persons, for example, medical staff, etc.,” the Premier advised. “This because, as we all know, Cayman Brac has a significant elderly population and we want to ensure that they are protected.”
Supermarkets step up
But many elderly people will still look to shop for themselves, so Cayman’s supermarkets have stepped up to the plate. Fosters has asked the public to respect their dedicated shopping hour for the elderly, disabled and pregnant.
“To assist those who are more vulnerable within our community, we will have a dedicated shopping hour from 6AM-7AM for the elderly and those with a disability,” a release said from the store. “This will come into effect from Tuesday 17th March, at all Foster's Supermarket and Priced Right locations. The wider public are asked to respect this hour as it has been allocated for the elderly and disabled.”
Kirk Market has reserved checkout lane 14 for seniors (i.e. those aged 60 and over) only.
Kirk Market management said: “We are going the extra mile, constantly working on viable and realistic solutions to ensure that the entire community can have a comfortable shopping experience in our store.”
Hurley’s supermarket is currently the only supermarket with an online delivery service. While the elderly might not be able to place orders online that easily, friends and family can place an order for them, which will be delivered to the elderly person’s door. Home delivery staff will leave the order at the door and will not enter homes to ensure they are practicing the necessary measures of social distancing.
“We are ensuring that our online ordering team is fully equipped and staffing is maximised to ensure we can continue to deliver orders to the homes of Cayman. We are playing our part in keeping Cayman safe,” the supermarket said.
If you have an elderly or infirm person in your neighbourhood, make sure they have adequate food and supplies, don’t panic buy in stores which might deprive an elderly person of much needed items, keep your distance to avoid any possible contamination and keep in touch with them. Regular communication is not only important for checking on physical well-being, it offers a comfort blanket of support for mental health as well.