Older Adults Suffer Medical Disruptions Due to COVID-19, Study Finds

Older Adults Suffer Medical Disruptions Due to COVID-19, Study Finds

More than half of those in the United States age 70 and older have experienced a disruption in medical care due to COVID-19, a survey co-designed and funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation and SCAN Foundation finds.

Based on a survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago that included interviews of more than a thousand adults age 70 and older, the report, More Than Half of Older Adults Already Experiencing Disruptions in Care as a Result of Coronavirus, (10 pages, PDF), found that 55 percent of older adults have experienced a disruption in medical care within a month of social distancing guidelines being put in place, including a delay in or the cancellation of an essential medical treatment (15 percent), non-essential medical treatment (39 percent), and/or primary or preventive care (32 percent). In addition, nearly a quarter of those surveyed (23 percent) indicated that their healthcare provider or staff had reached out to them since the start of the outbreak to check on their well-being outside of a normally scheduled appointment, while 21 percent indicated they had had a telehealth consultation. Of those, 49 percent indicated the experience was comparable to an in-person visit, while very few (4 percent) indicated it was "much worse."

According to the survey, majorities of older adults trust healthcare professionals (61 percent) and non-elected health officials (53 percent) as sources of COVID-19 information, followed by elected state officials (33 percent) and news sources (31 percent).

The survey also found that while older adults are experiencing more feelings of loneliness (33 percent), they are prepared to self-isolate for several more months (83 percent). To combat the sense of isolation, respondents indicate that they’re spending more time on hobbies (72 percent), watching TV (61 percent), chatting with family (60 percent), and being physically active (56 percent).

"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 SCAN Foundation president and CEO Bruce Chernof. "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."