The COVID-19 crisis has affected the healthcare system in profound ways.
Among the most pressing concerns involves care for patients with chronic health conditions.
- Seniors have the highest incidence of many chronic diseases. In addition, they are the most at-risk population for COVID-19.
- CDC guidelines advise seniors to remain at home and avoid settings that increase contact with others. This, unfortunately, includes the offices of physicians, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.
- Many patients with chronic conditions take medications regularly — and some medications require administration by a health-care professional.
- Patients are adapting to quarantine rules. Many rely on professional home care services and support from friends and family. But, adjusting to the “new normal” has taken a toll on the health and wellbeing of seniors.
Concerns About Osteoporosis in the Age of COVID-19
In light of COVID-19, the medical community has made difficult decisions about care. These decisions have special implications for individuals with osteoporosis.
- Osteoporosis almost exclusively affects seniors — those most at risk if they contract COVID-19.
- Many osteoporosis patients are on long-term control medications or have secondary diseases that require continuous care. Due to restrictions, these patients delayed seeking medical care during the height of the pandemic — 41% delayed medical care, 12% postponed urgent or emergency care, and 32% delayed routine care.
- The mortality rate for osteoporosis increases if left untreated.
Does Osteoporosis Increase Your Risk of COVID-19?
Still, there’s some good news. Having osteoporosis doesn’t increase your risk of contracting COVID-19.
And, seniors who are taking medications for osteoporosis needn’t worry that these medications will increase their risk of infection.
According to the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research:
“We have no evidence that any of the medications that we use to treat osteoporosis affect COVID-19 in any way, so we don’t think that any of these medications is going to be harmful to someone already infected or will increase their risk of infection.”
“It is mostly a question of how can we avoid any negative repercussions that can come with discontinuation of some of these medications and how can we continue to provide them in the safest possible way.”
(Matthew Drake, M.D., of the Division of Endocrinology and Kogod Center on Aging, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota).
Let’s look at some specifics:
“Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that requires continued attention, is under-diagnosed, and results in significant morbidity and mortality among vulnerable, older patients if not treated.” (Considering Osteoporosis During the COVID-19 Pandemic)
Certainly, adjustments have been made to meet the need of patients for continuous care during the pandemic:
“The use of telemedicine has exponentially been adopted by members of the medical community but cannot replace clinical decision-making around the in-person assessment and management of osteoporosis…”
Some doctors suggest the use of alternative therapies until osteoporosis patients can resume their original treatments.
Help for Osteoporosis Patients During the Pandemic
But, the question remains: How will physicians and other health care professionals continue to treat patients with osteoporosis during the COVID-19 pandemic? Below are some important considerations:
- Patients receiving intravenous (IV) bisphosphonates should know that new patients often experience flu-like symptoms during the course of treatment. These reactions aren’t difficult to distinguish from COVID-19 respiratory symptoms. However, patients who are unaware of this possibility may suffer from needless anxiety and panic.
- Many treatments for osteoporosis are long-term in nature, with most patients requiring continuous care. It’s vital that these treatments be taken on time. In light of COVID-19, home care professionals can administer treatments at home, or patients can attend telemedicine sessions with their physicians to discuss treatment options.
- Changes in therapy may require an in-person examination by a medical professional. In light of COVID-19, patients may decide to either continue their current therapy regimen or procure medical home care services.
- Unquestionably, a critical treatment for osteoporosis is regular weight-bearing exercise. Seniors can reduce their risk of falls by performing exercises that build strength and improve both balance and posture. Specifically, home-based exercises can prevent bone density loss in senior osteoporosis patients.
David York Supports Osteoporosis and COVID-19 Care in Brooklyn
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