The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe has been particularly fatal to older adults. Outbreaks in long-term care facilities like the one in Kirkland, Wash., drive home the extreme vulnerability of our nation’s elders.
The CDC’s March 28 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) looked specifically at severe outcomes in older adults from COVID-19. The first preliminary reports from China found fatality rate was highest among patients over 60, particularly among those with underlying conditions; the rate was as high as 27% for those 85 and older. In the U.S., CDC data found “80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults aged ≥65 years with the highest percentage of severe outcomes among persons aged ≥85 years.”
This comprehensive story from Stat looks at the various factors contributing to this high mortality rate — it’s not just age. However, age is certainly among the biggest risk factors. Multiple outbreaks have been reported in senior care facilities nationwide. This JAMA article describes nursing homes as “ground zero” for coronavirus outbreaks. As of March 30, more than 400 such facilities have reported cases. This number will certainly rise significantly as the virus spreads across the country.
A recent article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society noted, “it is not surprising that older adults residing in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) have the greatest susceptibility to COVID-19, as well as the poorest outcomes from this infection.” It’s imperative to ensure that COVID-19 is accurately and quickly diagnosed in the older population, especially in LTCFs, according to the authors. The article summarizes current information and evidence and highlights the need for health professionals working in geriatrics and long-term care to understand the “ABCDs” of the COVID-19 crisis:
How to foster awareness of key clinical differences for older adults.
- How to initiate quick, appropriate behaviors to manage infections, particularly in long-term care.
- How to begin COVID-19 containment and maximize preventive interventions (especially in long-term care)
- How to empower health care leaders, policymakers, and government agencies to make decisions that address rapid access and results of testing and treatment, as well as the costs and societal impacts of the pandemic.
Article co-author Joseph Ouslander, M.D., professor of geriatric medicine, Florida Atlantic University and executive editor of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, will join us for a webcast on Friday, April 10 at noon ET, to discuss the specifics of COVID-19 among older adults, including risks, diagnosis, containment, and treatment. He will provide a brief update with the latest data, but mostly wants to hear from journalists — what questions do you have about reporting on this issue? What do you need to know and what are you having difficulty finding out?
Submit your questions in advance with this form. You also will have the chance to submit additional questions during the webcast.