COVID-19 and geriatric psychiatry health services

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of COVID-19 infection control measures on geriatric psychiatric health services across Norway. We aim to identify the extent to which the measures implemented by the authorities have affected infection control in the workplace, general working conditions and the treatment services available to older adults with mental disorders.

When the sars-CoV-2 (corona) virus hit Norway, the authorities implemented infection control to prevent the spread of the virus. Coronavirus infection can lead to the development of "corona virus disease-19" (COVID-19). A significant proportion of patients develop a serious and life-threatening condition. There is no treatment or vaccine for the current coronavirus, and as a result, stringent measures have been taken to prevent the spread of infection. From the March 12, 2020, the specialist health services were instructed to implement guidelines for infection control. In addition, significant restrictions in social contact and use of public transport were imposed on the general public. The mental health wards had to stop outpatient consultations with physical attendance and substitute with telephone and video consultations. A number of institutions reduced the number of inpatients. Also, health professionals have been prevented from regular work due to home quarantine or home isolation.

Older adults with mental illness are a vulnerable group due to several reasons. First, older age is considered to be a risk for the development of serious disease. Second, older adults with mental illness often have comorbid disorders such as cardiovascular disease, which can further increase the risk of serious disease. Last, older adults have been using modern communication technology to a lesser extent than younger adults, and therefore cannot use the web-based services used by the younger population in order to communicate with health services. We hypothesize that the outbreak of COVID-19 has posed major challenges for mental health services for older adults in the community. By use of an established network of quality registry coordinators in 18 geriatric mental health departments across Norway, we are able to reach health practitioners across Norway. Each of the local registry coordinators are asked to distribute electronic questionnaires to relevant practitioners in each department. By sending a questionnaire to health professionals, we can quickly identify changes in the provision of specialist health services to the elderly. The questionnaire is filled in as a Quest-back, which allows for the collection of anonymous data, without identifying individuals. The information provided by the practitioners cannot be used to identify patients. The information will be stored in a database at the Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Ageing and Health.
The study will be funded by the Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Ageing and Health.
We plan to publish results in the form of an article in an academic journal, as well as through the use of the Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Ageing and Health website.

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