Frailty and COVID-19 Recovery

Angie SzumlinskiHealth, Studies

Older adults account for almost one-half of hospitalizations due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Providing post-acute rehabilitation for frail older adults recovering from COVID-19 remains a significant challenge as nursing facilities, one of the most common settings for post-acute care, have become overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the post-acute period is an essential window of opportunity for recovery, having timely information to guide care decisions is critical to tailoring care. Older adults with frailty are at exceptionally high risk for complications including delirium and hospital-acquired disability.

Nursing homes have been a focus during this current COVID-19 pandemic. However, few studies have addressed the crucial role that skilled nursing facilities play in providing post-acute care and functional recovery for older adults. Understanding functional recovery and identifying potential risk factors for prolonged or persistent function limitations are vital to providing appropriate resources during this pandemic.

In a recent study posted on JAMA, they found that older adults admitted to an SNF for post-acute care with COVID-19 generally had good functional recovery and were discharged back to the community; however, those who are frailer tended to have a lower function at discharge. These findings provide key insight to discharge planning and shared decision-making for older adults recovering from COVID-19 hospitalization. This is good and bad news. At the end of the day, the goal of all rehabilitation programs should be to have the resident reach pre-illness levels of independence. Unfortunately for the frail elderly, this may be a difficult task to accomplish, but not impossible! Keep up the good work, stay well, mask up indoors and stay tuned!