Unmet health-related needs of community-dwelling older adults during COVID-19 lockdown in a diverse urban cohort
J Am Geriatr Soc. 2022 Oct 23. doi: 10.1111/jgs.18098. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Shelter-in-place orders during the COVID-19 pandemic created unmet health-related and access-related needs among older adults. We sought to understand the prevalence of these needs among community-dwelling older adults.
METHODS: We performed a retrospective chart review of pandemic-related outreach calls to older adults between March and July 2020 at four urban, primary care clinics: a home-based practice, a safety net adult medicine clinic, an academic geriatrics practice, and a safety net clinic for adults living with HIV. Participants included those 60 or older at three sites, and those 65 or older with a chronic health condition at the fourth. We describe unmet health-related needs (the need for medication refills, medical supplies, or food) and access-related needs (ability to perform a telehealth visit, need for a call back from the primary care provider). We performed bivariate and multivariate analyses to examine the association between unmet needs and demographics, medical conditions, and healthcare utilization.
RESULTS: Sixty-two percent of people had at least one unmet need. Twenty-six percent had at least one unmet health-related need; 14.0% needed medication refills, 12.5% needed medical supplies, and 3.0% had food insecurity. Among access-related needs, 33% were not ready for video visits, and 36.4% asked for a return call from their provider. Prevalence of any unmet health-related need was the highest among Asian versus White (36.4% vs. 19.1%) and in the highest versus lowest poverty zip codes (30.8% vs. 18.2%). Those with diabetes and COPD had higher unmet health-related needs than those without, and there was no change in healthcare utilization.
CONCLUSIONS: During COVID, we found that disruptions in access to services created unmet needs among older adults, particularly for those who self-identified as Asian. We must foreground the needs of this older population group in the response to future public health crises.