Fears older peoples' health would suffer due to cocooning realised

Fears older peoples' health would suffer due to cocooning realised

Dr Emer Ahern, Geriatrician at the Cork University Hospital. Picture Dan Linehan

Fears that older people would suffer health consequences as a result of cocooning are being realised, according to a Cork consultant.

Dr Emer Ahern, a consultant geriatrician specialising in trauma and orthopaedic care at Cork University Hospital, said that doctors were seeing more older patients who had delayed receiving care at the height of the pandemic, or who had been physically or mentally impacted by the lockdown.

“In order to protect older adults they were effectively locked up overnight.

“All this - not eating as well, not moving as well, not connecting as well - we are directly seeing the consequences of this now,” Dr Ahern told the Echo.

The Cork consultant said that more people delayed going to their doctors over this time, and so people had delayed diagnosis.

However, doctors are also seeing more people presenting with falls or fractures because of their reduced activities.

“We had a meeting with our GP colleagues the other night, and they're absolutely seeing witness to that as well,” she said.

Busier time of year

Dr Ahern noted that this is coming at a time when hospitals and health care more generally are particularly busy.

“I suspect the winter will be a very challenging one for the health service everywhere because things are absolutely at full capacity in terms of looking after all these kinds of older adults who have been affected, physically and mentally who are presenting at hospitals or presenting with the GP,” she said.

While the health service is facing challenges, Dr Ahern appealed to anyone with concerns to contact their doctor and stressed that healthcare is open for business.

She advised that people should try to remember three key areas to stay well to “eat well, move well and connect well.” 

People should follow a healthy diet, she said, and generally try and move as much as they can, even within the house if they are housebound.

Dr Ahern stressed that connecting with people is vital. 

She said while older men have reconnected with people and activities, they have observed that older women are more reluctant to go back to their previous activities and connections.

“I can’t overestimate the value to your health, your physical and mental health, to connecting with your friends and family again. 

"It's really important to eat well and walk well, move well and to connect again,” she said.

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