A team led by the University of Waterloo has developed a new screening tool to identify older adults at risk of COVID-19 called the COVID-19 Vulnerability Screener. It is an extremely practical, much-needed tool that can be used by anyone both at home and in retirement homes.
“The screening tool identifies the immediate risks of COVID-19 and medical, functional and psychosocial vulnerabilities of frail older persons that require effective chronic disease management,” said John Hirdes, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems and lead researcher responsible for developing the new tool.
“We cannot ignore these vulnerabilities: older adults with dementia, cardiopulmonary conditions, mental health problems and frailty risk being affected severely by the virus.”
Care planning for older adults is based on in-person interactions. Social distancing has, therefore, seen clinical assessments postponed, something that is troublesome for older adults. In Canada, 93% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in people over the age of 60.
To create their new screener, the team used analytics from interRAI, a 35-country not-for-profit network of researchers, to develop a self-report system that lay-people can easily use.
This project can put in place a safety net and science-based intervention to reduce the magnitude of the short and longer-term impact of the pandemic,” Hurdes said. “The system changes being proposed during the pandemic have the potential to drive significant system improvements beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Older adults need a COVID-19 response that goes beyond the simple tracking of symptoms,” Hirdes said. “The effectiveness of the response to underlying complex health needs of older persons also depends on the availability of scientifically sound assessment and screening systems that operate with existing Canadian data standards and support telehealth interventions.”
The novel screener was launched this week in Canada and South Africa. The team is also working with collaborators in other countries such as Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, and Singapore.
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