A new editorial of the United Nations (UN) briefly presents the characteristics of COVID-19 pandemic period that led to poverty, unemployment, and abuse in various fields of activity, including health care. I want to present the main ideas of this editorial which refers to the problem of the elderly in this period, who are subjected to additional trauma, namely age discrimination.
We should be able to identify immediate policy which will remain over time. United Nations provide four key priorities for action:
1. Make sure that difficult nursing care decisions affecting the elderly are guided by commitment to dignity and health.
2. Maintaining social inclusion and solidarity during physical distance.
3. Full integration of older people in the socioeconomic and humanitarian response to COVID-19.
4. Expanding the participation of older people, sharing good practices, and capitalizing on knowledge and information.
The characteristics of the elderly regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection are the fact that those over 80 year old have a risk of death more than five times higher and those over 70 years old usually have at least one medical condition that qualifies them at risk of developing COVID-19 disease in a serious form. The elderly are a very important social and medical issue. This is why the United Nations have published an editorial that reveals the particularities of this problem that involves not only the elderly, but also those who care for this population. It is revealed that this category of population could be opinion leaders or leaders of some industries and of some scientific or economic societies. Thus, United Nations recommends: “Each of us – states, businesses, international organizations, companies, communities, friends and family – need to step up our effort to support older persons. We must do everything possible to preserve their rights and dignity at all times”. The social risks of elderly patients are multiple: “Older persons may also face age discrimination in decisions on medical care, triage and life-saving therapies. Global inequalities mean that, already pre-COVID-19, as many as half of older persons in some developing countries did not have access to essential health services. The pandemic may also lead to a scaling back of critical services unrelated to COVID-19, further increasing risks to the lives of older persons”.
Older people have long had inadequate human rights protection in human history and have also been overlooked in national policies and programs. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery after that are an opportunity to prepare the scene for a more inclusive, equitable and more age-friendly society. We hope that the promise of 2030 for sustainable development “will not leave anyone behind”.
Last but not least, I want to quote the recommendation of Hans Wildiers (President of the International Society of Geriatric Oncology): “More than ever, for every individual patient, physicians should search strategies to avoid undertreatment of the cancer, while also avoiding overtreatment and useless hospital visits where patients potentially come in contact with COVID-19. We need to protect older persons with cancer both from COVID-19 and from their cancer. Chronological age is NOT a good parameter to omit visits or oncological treatments that provide true benefits for older patients. Some kind of geriatric or frailty evaluation can help evaluate the global health status and propose individualized treatment plans”.