Taking care of the elderly who must self-isolate due to coronavirus, dispelling rumors around medication

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An elderly person’s hands. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Movie theaters, bars, gyms, public libraries, and many places of worship are now closing to slow the spread of coronavirus. Restaurants are focusing on takeout service. 

Meanwhile, Governor Gavin Newsom is calling on Californians ages 65 and over to self-isolate. Does that literally mean not leaving your house or apartment? We ask Dr. Michael Wilkes, a professor of medicine and public health at UC Davis, for today’s Daily Dose.

“The honest answer is we don't really know. The governor did not elaborate on [it]. But from a public health perspective, there certainly are fewer places to go these days with bars and restaurants and others closing. … It means staying at home. You're not going to the senior center, not going to work. Minimizing social interactions. But still being able to go to the grocery store and the pharmacy there,” Wilkes says.

KCRW: How about the implications for retirement and nursing homes? Are we talking about no visitors or very few? Are individual facilities making these decisions?

Wilkes: “It does hearken back to that: the idea that we are a nation of zillions of public health laws, and we don't have a national policy. 

And the governor is doing a great job of trying to come up with a state policy.

… I think the nursing homes would love to have no visitors. This does tug at our heartstrings. The folks that are in nursing homes and retirement homes and senior centers … are alone lots of the day. But this is a different world.

And the idea of not visiting them is really a protection for them, and their neighbors in the room, and the people down at the end of the hall. It is perhaps under the category of tough love. 

But yes, people shouldn't go. Use facetime, give them a call. 

Certainly we've heard horrible stories about people at the end of life and not being able to see their loved ones. And I think nursing homes are making exceptions for those types of circumstances. 

But yes, we should all try to stay connected with those people, but not physically go visit them.” 

This order affects nearly some 6 million people in the state. While we want to protect our elders’ physical wellbeing, what about their emotional and mental health? How do we curb their loneliness and depression?

“Loneliness is crippling, and often even on a good day, our homebound elderly are alone. They're often not getting the meals they need. So it is a big worry. And they're the most vulnerable, I think, in terms of being lonely, being isolated … being depressed. 

It's just a reminder that we’re all in this together. And we need to watch out for each other. And those who are going to be isolated … need our attention, and our care, and just our kindness even more than they do normally.” 

Rumors are circulating that affect older residents, especially about medication. What are those?

“One is that there is a drug that's being kept that really is useful and can save people's lives. It's an remdesivir. It’s made by Gilead. … There are no studies about this. These are just rumors. This drug is not being hoarded and used on some people and not being used on others. 

… The other rumor that I'm hearing a fair amount is that there's a very common class of drugs that people take for high blood pressure that are called ACE inhibitors. And people are telling people to stop taking them because somehow they promote the virus. There are a few studies from China in lab animals suggesting that there's a relationship, but nothing in humans. None of these studies are high quality studies. 

… While the coronavirus is deadly, so can stopping taking your blood pressure medicines. … Don't stop taking your medicines. Don't change your medicines unless you discuss it with your doctor. Just stay with what you've got. Isolate.”

Credits

Guest:
Michael Wilkes - Host of 'Second Opinion'

Host:
Chery Glaser

Producers:
Darrell Satzman, Amy Ta