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Your elders need extra TLC after organ transplantation during Covid-19 – Here’s what to do

Updated on:13 August 2021, 10:49am IST
On the occasion of World Organ Donation Day, an expert gives you a lowdown on things to ensure if you have an elder who may have undergone an organ transplantation.
Dr Angeli Misra
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liver transplant
Be your parent's strength if they are undergoing a liver transplant. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, life has drastically changed for everyone. The elderly people in the house need a lot of care. But if they have been a recipient of an organ transplant recently, it is essential that they take extra precautions to stay safe from catching the deadly virus. It is important to continuously sanitize and practice physical distancing with family members and friends as well as follow safe masking protocols along with performing good hand hygiene. 

Post-transplant, high-risk elderly patients are more likely to be at a higher risk for severe disease from Covid-19. For severe cases, recovery may take 6 weeks or more. Since transplant recipients take immunosuppressive drugs, they have a higher risk of contracting infection from viruses such as cold or flu.

The old people who receive solid organ transplants (such as hearts, lungs and kidneys) often are required to take drugs to suppress their immune systems and prevent rejection. Such regimens tend to interfere with a transplant recipient’s capability of producing antibodies to foreign substances, including the protective ones produced in response to vaccines, making them more vulnerable to deadly diseases such as coronavirus. 

organ transplant
Keep these tips in mkind to manage elderly in your home. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Here’s how to care for elders after organ transplant during Covid-19

1. Staying safe in the lab

If the test cannot be postponed or done in one’s home, then the caretaker must find out if the facilities, where the tests are to be conducted, are taking precautions to keep patients healthy. Hospitals, labs, doctors’ offices, and dialysis centres must evaluate patients and staff, such as by checking temperatures and asking questions, to assess each person for active Covid-I9. If it is suspected that someone has the virus, then those people must be kept isolated from all healthy people.

2. Follow health and safety protocols

It is also important that necessary measures are taken to help keep the elderly patients safe and reduce the chance of getting Covid-19. Be sure to make them wear a mask when they step outside their home. Keep at least 6 feet distance between them and other people. Remember to wash your hands frequently as well as theirs and use hand sanitizer if there are no washing facilities. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

organ transplant
Organ transplant is not a simple procedure, that’s why your parents need to you all the time. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Be well prepared

Have extra supplies on hand, including surgical masks, hand sanitizer, and disposable gloves, so that if you come into contact with someone at a medical facility or if a technician comes to your home, you are both well protected. The same goes for the patient you are taking care of. For in-home visits, be sure to disinfect any surfaces that another person may have touched, such as doorknobs and countertops.

4. Have them vaccinated

Just like the general population, it is essential that this category of people is properly vaccinated as vaccines will provide the necessary shield from the virus. Also, future studies should seek to improve Covid-19 vaccine responses in this population, including additional booster doses or modulating the use of all the immunosuppressive medications so that sufficient antibody levels are created in these patients.

5. Care within Home

It is possible that the patient will still be spending maximum time at home. Hence, it becomes vital that high touch surfaces, such as door handles and kitchen and bathroom surfaces are all regularly cleaned. This needs to be done by someone in the home who is not the transplant recipient. If possible, try to keep windows open in good weather. This will increase the flow of air in and out of your home, and can help get rid of tiny droplets containing the virus.

organ transplant
Stay connected with them. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
The last word

It is understandable if transplant patients and their caretakers may have a lot of questions and concerns about the risks of Covid-19 to them and their respective families. At the moment, there is very little data and information available on whether transplant recipients or those with chronic diseases could be more severely impacted by the coronavirus. However, following the above mentioned tips, one is likely to keep their loved ones well-protected.

Dr Angeli Misra Dr Angeli Misra

Dr Angeli Misra, Consultant Pathologist and Director, Lifeline Laboratory