Many older adults turned down house well being care throughout the pandemic, the research discovered

Fear of COVID-19 prompted many seniors to cancel medically necessary home care during the pandemic, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

Researchers said the lack of home care worsened the health of a number of patients. At the same time, nurses said they felt ill-prepared to advise patients on whether or not to continue providing care, saying they lacked adequate information and training.

“A representative of an ambulatory health agency said their agency’s patient burden decreased by 38% because patients canceled services,” study lead author Jennifer Inloes, of the UM School of Nursing, said in a statement. “It really highlighted the level of anxiety among patients receiving home healthcare services at the start of the pandemic.”

COVID-19 was clearly more dangerous for older adults. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that adults over the age of 65 were responsible for about 90% of COVID-19 deaths in recent months.

As disease management continues to shift to the home setting, there is little research on how public health emergencies affect the continuity of home health care. To do this, the researchers surveyed nearly 30 Medicare-certified health care providers in eight states to better understand what motivated older adults to turn down home services during the pandemic.

The findings emphasized the role emotions play in making medical decisions and challenge assumptions that patients make rational decisions when given enough accurate and enlightening information. Inloes said her research shows the importance of carefully balancing the known benefits of home health care with the negative consequences of canceling services.

“Home healthcare providers are trained in infection control precautions, so the risk of contracting COVID-19 from an in-home provider is pretty low,” Inloes said. “However, a patient experiencing a preventable complication associated with a denial that requires emergency department treatment is now inadvertently faced with their risk of COVID-19 exposure due to the larger number of providers, patients and family members in the emergency department of the home environment.”

The study failed to determine whether the older adults who avoided infection by isolating themselves were harmed by negative health outcomes from refusing care.

This article originally appeared on McKnights Home Care

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