The COVID-19 Rehabilitation Pandemic

Sarah De Biase; Laura Cook; Dawn A. Skelton; Miles Witham; Ruth ten Hove


Age Ageing. 2020;49(5):696-700. 

In This Article

Non-COVID Rehabilitation in a World With COVID-19

The pandemic response in Italy highlighted the tensions of balancing appropriate COVID-19 rehabilitation alongside rehabilitation for other medical conditions.[15] Restrictions imposed to prevent infection spread created difficulties in delivering rehabilitation in outpatient and home-based settings. The responsiveness of organisations to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients was cited as being dependent on relationships between acute, rehabilitation and community services and primary care.[14] During the first pandemic wave of COVID-19, many older people were discharged more rapidly from hospital, with all elective procedures postponed. Non-emergency rehabilitation programmes were also paused with only a small number of programmes continuing remotely through the use of digital technology.

Any rehabilitation strategy in the time of COVID must therefore address both COVID-specific rehabilitation needs and the needs of those who require rehabilitation for reasons other than COVID infection. Failure to do so risks inequity of access for large numbers of older people, and a failure to deliver effective rehabilitation to those deconditioned or otherwise in need risks worse outcomes for those who become unwell with COVID-19 in future pandemic waves. It is therefore essential that rehabilitation programmes and proactive frailty management[16] resume as soon as possible. This will minimise adverse outcomes for older people living with long term conditions, those with gradual functional decline and those requiring rehabilitation after elective or emergency hospitalisation.