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“I found it hard to get up and get out of bed,” said Lindquist, who lives with his wife of 67 years in Palm Springs, California. “I just wanted to lay around. I lost my desire to do things.”
ExploreAging in Atlanta: A series dedicated to serving the 55+ community in the metro Atlanta area
Physically, Lindquist noticed that getting up out of a chair was difficult, as was getting into and out of his car. “I was praying ‘Lord, give me some strength.’ I kind of felt, I’m on my way out — I’m not going to make it,” he admitted.
One little-discussed, long-term toll of the pandemic: Large numbers of older adults have become physically and cognitively debilitated and less able to care for themselves during 15 months of sheltering in place.
No large-scale studies have documented the extent of this phenomenon. But physicians, physical therapists and health plan leaders said the prospect of increased impairment and frailty in the older population is a growing concern.
“Anyone who cares for older adults has seen a significant decline in functioning as people have been less active,” said Dr. Jonathan Bean, an expert in geriatric rehabilitation and director of the New England Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.
Bean’s 90-year-old mother, who lives in an assisted living facility, is a case in point. Before the pandemic, she could walk with a walker, engage in conversation and manage going to the bathroom. Now, she depends on a wheelchair and “her dementia has rapidly accelerated — she can’t really care for herself,” the doctor said.
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Bean said his mother is no longer able to benefit from rehabilitative therapies. But many older adults might be able to realize improvements if given proper attention.
“Immobility and debility are outcomes to this horrific pandemic that people aren’t even talking about yet,” said Linda Teodosio, a physical therapist and division rehabilitation manager in Bayada Home Health Care’s Towson, Maryland, office. “What I’d love to see is a national effort, maybe by the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], focused on helping older people overcome these kinds of impairments.”
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