One little-discussed, long-term toll of the pandemic: Large numbers of older adults have become physically and cognitively debilitated and less able to care for themselves during 15 months of sheltering in place. No large-scale studies have documented the extent of this phenomenon however, physicians, physical therapists, and health plan leaders said the prospect of increased impairment and frailty in the older population is a growing concern.
Dr. Lauren Jan Gleason, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said in a Kaiser Family Foundation article that “many older patients have lost muscle mass and strength this past year and are having difficulties with mobility and balance they didn’t have previously… I’m seeing weight gain and weight loss, and a lot more depression.”
Although we are feeling “better” about getting out and about and not as concerned about contracting COVID-19, many of our community-based elders and residents in our centers have become deconditioned due to isolation and depression. Please be sure to evaluate your residents, pick up on subtle changes such as heightened “fear of falling”, requiring more assistance with ADLs, not attending activities, etc. as these can be heralding signs of decline. Stay well and stay tuned!