Pacific doctor urges family focus on elderly during pandemic

The mental health of elderly Pasifika in New Zealand has been dealt a major blow by the Covid-19 pacific, a Pacific psychiatrist says.

Etuini Ma'u of Waikato Hospital said there had been an increase of anxiety and depression among the elderly.

Pacific families needed to take extra care to ensure their elderly were supported during these uncertain times, Dr Ma'u said.

"The impact of lockdown is affecting the elderly deeply. There's been an increase of anxiety and depression. The longer this drags out, the harder it will be for them," he said.

"It's about maintaining that social connection and recognising that this is a very disruptive and uncertain time for your parents, for your elderly."

Dr Ma'u urged Pacific families to stay in regular contact with their older folk and to offer them practical support, given they are the most vulnerable and need to stay home.

"Make arrangements to ensure they have assistance around the house."

Dr Ma'u said it was also important to check that the elderly understood the health and safety guidelines.

"Consider that this is a group who are already having difficulty understanding what's going on and working out how it's going to affect them. We can ensure they make sense of everything and explain the risks and how it affects them and others around them.

"For the elderly to survive this pandemic, it's important that their mental, physical and spiritual well being is maintained.

"It comes down to the basics. Keep a healthy diet and make sure they go outside to keep up with their physical exercise because anything that is good for the heart is good for the head."