Older life in the pandemic – news update
The Covid-19 pandemic is changing the way our older family and friends receive health, financial and other services. Here’s a roundup of recent news.
- Access to GP services
- Long-term Covid-19 effects
- Is blood pressure medication a worry?
- Hearing disability and masks
- Care homes in the pandemic
- Do not resuscitate orders
- Do you know if you’re an executor?
Access to GP services
Who’s caring for carers’ health? While GPs have stopped seeing many patients on a face-to-face basis, they have introduced other options, such as phone, video call and electronic messaging. Every practice is expected to have a carers’ register, which can open the door to further services, although that varies from practice to practice.
GPs are reportedly angry that NHS England has seen fit to remind them that they must see patients face to face. A letter to practices does say that the vast majority have made significant efforts to remain accessible during the pandemic.
Meanwhile GPs are perturbed that they have received advice from NHS England that amounts to ‘keep patients away from hospital’. GPs have been warning that they are managing patients ‘outside their comfort zone’ because of less support from secondary care services.
Long-term Covid-19 effects
Now that the virus has been around for long enough for people to have recovered from the worst, experts are starting to evaluate the virus’ long-term effects on health. Persistent health problems are wide-ranging and appear to include respiratory and heart conditions, inflammatory conditions, effects on liver and kidneys, and gastrointestinal issues. Fatigue, headaches, mental health challenges and protracted loss or change of small and taste have also been noted. The government recommends that anyone with post-Covid 19 symptoms should talk to their GP about further care. A group of experts have also suggested that the pandemic has brought about brain changes for many of us, but that they can be addressed with a mix of brain training, such as mindfulness, and exercise.
Is blood pressure medication a worry?
Who’s most at risk of severe symptoms if they contract the coronavirus? The list has evolved over the past six months, but those with high blood pressure and heart disease generally feature. However, a British research project suggests that taking blood pressure medication can actually significantly lower the risk of ending up on a ventilator worse. At best the medication could help to prevent serious effects, and the report says that there’s no evidence that hypertension medication could put patients at greater risk.
Hearing disability and masks
For those of us who rely at least partially on lip-reading for communication, the requirement to wear face masks necessarily hampers understanding. The good news is that around 250,000 clear masks have been pledged to frontline NHS and social care workers. This style of mask should help the 12 million people with hearing loss, as well as those who use facial expressions to support understanding, including people living with dementia. There are also a number of private companies and individuals who have started making masks for use in the community. And all that said, researchers at Cornell University suggest it’s possible to understand a great deal about people by focusing on the expression in their eyes.
Care homes in the pandemic
The lockdown in care homes that has seen families refused access to their relatives has been the subject of much attention at last. We have an update on where care homes stand currently.
The government has just announced a package of over half a million pounds to help support care homes. The money is intended to pay workers full wages when they are self-isolating, and ensures carers only work in one care home, reducing the spread of the virus.
The reuse of medicines in care homes in England has been re-evaluated in the light of the pandemic. NHS bodies are recommending that previous NICE guidelines are relaxed, which means that homes can re-use one resident’s medication for another patient’s use. There are still strict guidelines to follow, and this change should only be temporary.
Do not resuscitate order worries
There are worrying anecdotal reports of hospitals and care homes introducing Do Not Resuscitate orders for older people without consultation with the patient or their family. How far widespread this has been happening is unclear, but worried families should check with the care home and any notes if their family member is hospitalised.
Do you know if you’re an executor?
Many people who have been making wills during the pandemic are making wills but not letting them know, according to Co-op Legal Services. Anyone who discovers they are an executor can renounce the position, but only if you do this immediately after that person dies, and before you do any work. We’ve recently published an article on what the role of executor entails.
For further news about health, wealth and quality of life this month, visit our September 2020 news page.
Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash