The COVID-19 pandemic in Armenia has severely affected older people in terms of their life and health, social and economic situation. The outbreak in Armenia was rapid and the state of emergency was long-lasting for the entire country, later replaced by quarantine.
Inadequate provision of services for older people has compromised the effectiveness of the response to their needs in the context of the current health emergency. Fully recognizing the circumstances of ageing and its societal implications, the Government of Armenia (GoA) with the involvement of the UN Population Fund Country Office in Armenia (UNFPA), non-govermental organizations (NGO) and the Armenian Red Cross Society (ARCS), adopted national policy frameworks related to ageing and social protection of older people, and reorganization of the care system towards a deinstitutionalized, community-based and integrated1 approaches. However, implementation of these policies faces multiple challenges, including: applying a geriatrics and gerontology lens to medical care; introducing professional palliative care; delineating care provision and funding responsibilities among different government levels; advancing home-based care beyond pilot (although successful) experiences implemented with the support of external and non-governmental actors; ensuring older people’s medical and social entitlements are less dependent on their formal qualification as “most vulnerable”, and simplifying the procedures for people to access state-guaranteed free-of-charge daycare, homebased care and residential care.
The state response could not sufficiently address the needs of older people during COVID-19 in Armenia. Management of COVID-19 cases was shared between government and primary health care institutions, but lacked effective organization and coordination. Reaching out to older people was mainly left to local governments, the ARCS and its branches, and NGOs, some of which have emerged as prospective longer-term partners to work alongside government to provide professional care services to older people.
The ARCS plays an auxiliary role to the public authorities in the humanitarian field. It has been involved in home-based care for older people at the local level and is supporting the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic through risk communication, and the provision of psycho-social and food and hygiene support to people considered most vulnerable to the virus, including older people.
This study looks at the impacts of COVID-19 on older people and professional caregivers and trained Red Cross (RC) volunteers in the context of general care provision in Armenia and suggests recommendations to ARCS and other stakeholders for improving the COVID-19 response and care for older people and caregivers.