Canadian Frailty Network funds research into the prevention of COVID-19 spread in long-term care

May 12, 2020

News Release

Kingston – May 5, 2020 – As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become apparent that older adults over the age of 60, with or without pre-existing health conditions, or those who live in long-term care homes are a high-risk group affected disproportionately and more severely by the virus. The Canadian Frailty Network has funded a study to inform older adults and long-term care facilities on how to prepare for and respond to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.

Conducted through the Strategy for Patient Oriented Research Evidence Alliance by the Knowledge Translation Program of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and funded by the Canadian Frailty Network, a rapid review was conducted to examine the control and management of COVID-19 in older adults living in long-term care. Rapid reviews are analyses completed over a short period of time of all existing studies in one topic area. The goal of a rapid review is to capture a global picture of knowledge and to categorize it all in one study. This review included clinical practice guidelines (CPGs), systematic reviews, and human studies of all design types that examined COVID-19.

Currently, the KT Program at St. Michael’s is conducting multiple rapid-reviews related to COVID-19. “The most interesting part of these reviews is that initially there wasn’t a lot of evidence and now we’re seeing new studies publishing daily,” said Dr. Andrea Tricco, Director and Scientist of the KT Program’s Knowledge Synthesis Team. “This is a rapidly changing area – things change by the day and sometimes the hour.”

What did the study find?

Preventing COVID-19 from entering a long-term care home should be the first line of defense in protecting vulnerable populations. However, as this has not been achieved, the best immediate measure upon an outbreak is to extensively screen and test all staff, residents, and visitors. The CPGs included in the review commonly suggest: surveillance, monitoring and evaluation followed by  notification and consultation with appropriate health professionals; disinfection of surfaces; proper education of staff and residents on infection control such as hand hygiene and cough etiquette; adequate supply and mandatory use of personal protective equipment; and physical distancing or isolation.

Why was the study important?

The review was important in identifying best practices for older adults in long-term care, but also it identified a gap and the necessity for further research into the best way to prevent spread, and examine the effect of COVID-19 on older adults living with frailty specifically. The Canadian Frailty Network is working to fill this gap by funding a research competition investigating the interaction between frailty and COVID-19. Results of the competition are expected to be announced in June.

1.5 million older Canadians are medically frail which translates to over 25 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 65–84 years, and over 50 per cent over the age of 85.  By 2030, it is estimated that more than two million Canadians will be living with frailty. Given these numbers and that frailty also impacts family and friend caregivers and places large burdens on health and social care systems to meet the growing demand, Dr. John Muscedere, Scientific Director and CEO of the Canadian Frailty Network, felt this rapid review was highly necessary. “Given the current crisis that has arisen in long-term care during this outbreak and that our mission is to improve care for older adults living with frailty, we felt it was important to fund this rapid review. The goal was to provide some insight into what is happening in terms of management and control of viruses such as COVID-19, and help to inform and lay the path for a solid strategy so this unnecessary loss of life can be prevented or mitigated in the future. Seven percent of Canadians over the age of 65 live in long-term care homes. That number will only grow over the next ten years. It is imperative that we invest time and resources into caring for some of our most vulnerable now.”

Read the research brief

Read the summary report

Media inquiries:

Amy Doyle, Partnerships & Communications Manager, Canadian Frailty Network, Tel: Mobile: 613-849-8163, amy@cfn-nce.ca

About the Canadian Frailty Network

Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) is Canada’s sole network devoted to improving care for older Canadians living with frailty and supporting their families and caregivers. We do this by increasing frailty recognition and assessment, increasing evidence for decision-making from the bedside to the policy making level, advancing evidence-based changes to care, training the next generation of care professionals and scientists, and engaging with older adults and caregivers. Canadian Frailty Network is funded by the Government of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program. For more information: please visit www.cfn-nce.ca, or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.