Senior homes adapt to make life easy for elderly in Shanghai amid pandemic

Elderly care homes across Shanghai have been under closed-loop management since early March to protect senior citizens amid a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seniors, especially those over 60 years old, are one of the most at-risk groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elderly care homes across Shanghai have been under closed-loop management since early March. Now, during the city's phased lockdown, nurses sleep at senior homes, accompanying elderly residents at all times. Parcels are carefully disinfected and delivered by staff.

Qiao Yihao, deputy director of the Yangpu District Social Welfare Institution, has been staying at the senior home for 21 days with 235 of her colleagues, including medical staff and nursing workers.

According to Qiao, physical contact between residents and their family members has been suspended. Staffers are helping elderly residents use WeChat to keep in touch with families.

A pandemic drill was held recently to prepare for the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus, practicing an emergent approach to COVID-19 infection, including diagnosis, transfer of infected residents to hospital quickly and environmental sterilization.

Like some locked-down communities, the Yangpu District Social Welfare Institution also suffered from food shortage during the lockdown. There were a limited number of eggs for seniors. The district's Social Work Association came to the rescue, delivering fresh groceries to the senior home yesterday, much to everyone's relief.

The welfare home houses 555 elders, with an average age of 90.

Lu Xuezhen, 95, has been at the home for nearly 8-1/2 years.

"Compared with staying at home alone, I feel happier here, with so many people together. My life during the pandemic is not bad, especially with the diverse food options here. If my family members can see this video, please note that I am safe and healthy," Lu told Shanghai Daily during a video interview.

To take care of the elders, both physically and mentally, the welfare home holds various entertainment activities, such as DIY face mask and painting.

The home highlights the efforts being made to address the problem of Shanghai's aging population. The city has more than 733 nursing homes, and over a third of its permanent residents are over 60, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

Shanghai is committed to the development of the country's elderly care services during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), with plans to integrate online hospitals into elderly care service.

Hospitals can cooperate with in-house doctors at senior homes to make online diagnosis for critically ill patients, especially during times, such as currently, when elderly care centers are under closed-loop management.

For instance, on the midnight of March 16, a 96-year-old man surnamed Zhu, at the Shanghai Hengyu Senior Citizens' Home, suffered serious hematochezia.

Staff contacted Shanghai Zhabei Central Hospital immediately for an emergency medical consultation. General practitioner Meng Kai had a video consultation with the patient, and after preliminary diagnosis decided the man had to be sent to hospital right away, otherwise he would suffer shock.

After a quick confabulation between the hospital, the senior home and his family, Zhu was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, and within an hour upon arrival he got proper treatment and was then sent to the ICU.

Through mechanisms like these that incorporate remote diagnosis and timely, priority treatment, patients at elderly care centers can manage to skip the "last mile" between nursing homes and hospitals, officials pointed out.

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