APH researchers from Amsterdam UMC - location VUmc and VU Amsterdam conducted a study on care delay among older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main finding is that about one third of the Dutch older population reported cancellation or avoidance of medical care during the first months of the pandemic.

The study, conducted by APH researchers Noah Schuster, Emiel Hoogendijk and colleagues, made use of data from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA). Just after the first wave of the pandemic, 880 older adults aged 62-102 years answered questions on medical care during the pandemic. This included scheduled appointments in primary care and hospital outpatient care. The results indicated that about one third of the older population (35%) experienced delay of care, because of cancelled or postponed appointments. Cancellations were more often initiated by healthcare professionals than by older adults themselves.    

The results also revealed that people with multimorbidity (two or more chronic diseases) more often experienced healthcare-initiated cancellations in primary care and hospital outpatient care, as well as respondent-initiated hospital outpatient cancellations, compared to people without multimorbidity. Furthermore, 1 out of 10 older adults reported avoidance of care. They did not seek for help in case of physical and mental health problems, because of the COVID-19 situation. Avoidance of care was linked to a higher number of depressive symptoms. The results were published last week in European Geriatric Medicine.    

Cancellation or avoidance of medical care may have serious implications for long-term outcomes in the older population. Especially the fact that older adults with multiple chronic diseases more often reported cancellations in primary care and hospital outpatient care could result in higher morbidity and related adverse health outcomes, such as acute events. This should be monitored in future research.  

LASA is currently conducting a follow-up survey, to evaluate functioning of older adults during the second and third wave of the pandemic. More information on the LASA COVID-19 questionnaire can be found in the design paper.