Social isolation measures actioned in response to COVID-19 pandemic may cause unique stressors for older patients with cancer. North Lakes Cancer Centre provides geriatric oncology service to all patients aged >65 years by completing a G8 screening test; those scoring ≤14 are offered Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment and Management (CGAM). We sought to describe the impacts of lockdown and the role of CGAM in predicting hazards for our older patients. We hypothesised patients with CGAM would have lower rates of depression.
We invited patients aged >65, and their carers, to participate our mixed-methods study. Respondents were stratified by age, G8 score and receipt of CGAM. Data collection included survey with Likert, free text, short-form depression score (SFDS) and questions adapted from National Institute of Health measures in domains investigating social well-being, weight loss, and adaptation to situation. Qualitative Framework Analysis was applied to free text responses.
198 Patients were screened; 64 agreed to participate. 39 patients (61%) and 16 of their carers returned surveys. Most patients were receiving treatment. 43% lived alone whilst the others lived with a family member or carer. Responses indicated high satisfaction with emotional health, social well-being and available support. 33% of patients returned SFDS concerning for depression and 49% reported unexplained weight loss. Neither G8 score (p=0.46) or Receipt of CGAM (p=0.45) predicted for depression. Carers reported low levels of stress. Qualitative analyses identified these themes: ‘Loneliness and isolation’, ‘pragmatic acceptance’ and ‘treatment is my lifeline’.
Older patients with cancer from our centre reported that they were well-equipped to face the pressures placed on them during lockdown measures and reported high quality of life, with pragmatic acceptance despite a sense of sacrifice and isolation. This study is ongoing.