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Analysis

More Than Half of Seniors Report Coronavirus-related Care Disruption

By John Commins  
   April 27, 2020

A survey of more than 1,000 elderly adults found that 39% canceled or delayed non-essential medical treatment, 32% cancelled primary care and 15% cancelled an essential medical treatment.

More than half (55%) of adults age 70 or older have experienced disruptions in their medical care in the first month of social distancing for the coronavirus pandemic, a new nationwide survey shows.

The survey of 1,039 elderly adults, taken between April 10-15 by NORC at the University of Chicago, also found that 39% of respondents canceled or delayed non-essential medical treatment, 32% cancelled primary or preventive care and 15% cancelled an essential medical treatment.

"The first month of social distancing in America certainly saved lives, and yet it also created a situation where many older adults are not getting the care they need to manage serious health conditions," said Bruce Chernof, MD, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, which co-commissioned and designed the survey with The John A. Hartford Foundation.

"As our nation grapples with when and how to reopen, the healthcare system will reckon with unaddressed medical needs and learn how to maximize new protocols to care for older adults with complex needs in flexible, person-centered ways," Chernof said.

The survey shows that respondents are primarily concerned (39%) about interruptions in their care regime, compared to other concerns, such as staying physically active (37%), support for daily living (39%) and finding mental stimulation (23%).

Nearly one-in-five respondents (21%) of respondents used telehealth since the start of the pandemic. Of those who did, 49% said it was about the same as an in-person visit, and only 4% said it was "much worse."

"Telehealth is a lifeline for many who need clinical care during this pandemic,” said Terry Fulmer, RN, president of The John A. Hartford Foundation.

"Healthcare organizations have stepped up quickly to help older adults get their care needs met with this important technology. Comfort levels with telehealth vary, but we are seeing rapid uptake in both urgent and primary care delivery. The survey results offer a promising glimpse into the future," Fulmer said.

The survey also found that:

  • 23% said that their clinicians proactively checked on them in the weeks after confinement through telehealth, and 23% said their provider reached out to them since the start of the pandemic to check on their well-being, outside of a normally scheduled appointment.
     
  • 83% said they are prepared to self-isolate for several months, if need be, to protect themselves and others. However, 33% said they've felt pangs of loneliness, and spend their abundant free time on hobbies, watching TV, chatting with families, and physical activities.
     
  • Healthcare professionals (61%) are seen as the most trusted sources on coronavirus information by seniors, followed by non-elected public health officials (53%). Elected state officials (33%), news sources (31%), church (20%), and elected federal officials (20%) fared considerably worse.

“The first month of social distancing in America certainly saved lives, and yet it also created a situation where many older adults are not getting the care they need to manage serious health conditions.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

21% of respondents used telehealth since the start of the pandemic. 49% said it was about the same as an in-person visit, and 4% said it was "much worse."

Healthcare professionals (61%) are seen as the most trusted sources on coronavirus information.

Elected state officials (33%), news sources (31%), church (20%), and elected federal officials (20%) fared considerably worse.


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