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Mar 18, 2020

Older Persons Take Precautions Against COVID-19

The novel coronavirus is particularly deadly to the older population, many whose health conditions are worsened by pre-existing conditions. HelpAge Belize manages two institutions with a concentration of folks who are most at-risk of the virus. So how are they preparing the elderly for COVID-19?  News Five’s Hipolito Novelo has the following report.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, older people are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they catch the deadly novel coronavirus. In most cases these older adults are also challenged by pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and respiratory complications. It is for these reasons that the elderly is a fragile group and Executive Director for HelpAge Belize, Ivorine Bulwer, says she began preparing for the threat a month ago.

 

Ivorine Bulwer

Ivorine Bulwer, Executive Director, HelpAge Belize

“We recognized that the older persons are a vulnerable population. We have been cognizant of the situation globally and hence we have started our preparedness about a month ago. A number of our older persons are affected with non-communicable diseases and complications such as heart problems. They may have hypertension, diabetes. Quite a number of them are amputees. What support they need?”

 

HelpAge Belize manages two residential institutions- Sister Cecelia Home in Belize City and the Octavia Waight Center in San Ignacio- and nine activities centres across the country.   HelpAge through caregivers looks after seventy-two older folks- thirty eight at Sister Cecelia and thirty four at Octavia Waight.

 

Evan Dakers

Evan Dakers, Chairman, HelpAge Belize

“All activity centers will cease activities as of Friday of this week. In the case of Belmopan Thursday will be the last day. We will close and we will not reopen until after the Easter and we will have to await the instructions of those two committees I mentioned.”

 

Ivorine Bulwer

“What we have done so far is to provide education to our staff and our clientele. Our older persons we have ensured and we continue to try to have as many to get the flu shot. Importantly we are collaborating with the Ministry of Health both in Belize City and San Ignacio. We have conducted consultation with the staff, older persons. Consultation in the component of infection control, proper hand washing. If anyone is ill they should not be on duty. They report sick and get the time off. Additionally we have had consultations and information on what is the coronavirus, the preventative measures. We recognize we have a vulnerable population, visitations have been discontinued. However our older persons have that opportunity to be in contact with their loved ones through phone. In the event if anyone reaches the dying stage we are going to facilitate visitation.”

 

With a weakened immune systems, these men and women are at a higher risk. An estimated twenty-nine thousand older adults live across the country.  Belize City has a population of about seven thousand older persons and it will be the responsibility of their families to protect them from the virus.

The National Council of Ageing says that the population most impacted by the pandemic are those persons, sixty years and over. Approximately six percent of Belize’s population is considered older persons and the population increases by one thousand two hundred every year. Headed by Executive Director Ix-Chel Poot, the Council has been in dialogue with the VOICE branches in each district supporting the dissemination of information for older persons in the community level.

 

On the Phone: Ix-Chel Poot, Executive Director, National Council of Ageing

“One of the first things that we want families to take seriously is that if you have been ill or been contact with some who has been ill is to practice social distancing. As we can see with the experience internationally the coronavirus is deadly for people sixty plus. We are looking at practicing social distancing. You can keep in contact with your older persons via phone, text. Or putting in place the measures in your home to maintain good hygiene. Even keeping up with the hand washing and the disinfecting. And if the older person in your home has an underlying health condition to ensure that his health condition is under control, diabetes, hypertension and that they have the medication that is necessary on hand. We are also stressing that if the older person in you care shows any signs or symptoms to contact the Ministry of Health hotline because there is no time to see what it will develop in that older person.”

 

Poot says that older persons remain a valuable part of our country and their lives can be protected by the collective and responsible actions of all Belizeans. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


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