A Cork doctor has described the emergence of what he is calling a ‘Covid-19 lockdown frailty syndrome’ amongst older adults.
Dr Mike O’Connor, a care of the elderly physician at Cork University Hospital (CUH), said that the Covid-19 outbreak had had a significant physical impact on many, but not all older people.
In March, authorities recommended that anyone over the age of 70, and those who are at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19, cocoon and stay home to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
Dr O’Connor said that this had a number of consequences including some older people becoming affected by sarcopenia, where a person loses muscle mass and strength, reduced exercise tolerance and by frailty with “people who were pre-frail becoming frail and people who were frail becoming more frail.”
The isolation undoubtedly also had an important social impact on older people.
Dr O’Connor described seeing one patient who was experiencing a number of symptoms, and whom he asked what the single biggest issue was affecting her.
“In trying to focus the mind, I would say if I had one tablet, and one table only, what would it cure and you are hoping that they’d say the breathlessness, which allows you to rank the breathlessness, and she said loneliness,” he said.
The care of the elderly physician said that the lockdown period also means that there may have been missed opportunities with illness.
“I’d say we are only beginning to see the illness that we have collectively missed, and missed opportunities around that,” he added.
The CUH doctor said that he would like to see a concerted and coordinated approach to getting older people across Cork out exercising, with suitable walks being mapped out and highlighted.
“We’re fantastic for visiting our relatives and having cups of tea with them,” he said adding “what they need more than anything else is to get out and get moving and unwind that degree of frailty and sarcopenia that has worsened over the last while.”
The care of the elderly physician said his aspiration would be to see “our elderly people out enjoying life the same way the rest of us are out enjoying life again.”