Background Frailty, increased vulnerability to physiological stressors, is associated with adverse outcomes. COVID-19 exhibits a more severe disease course in older, comorbid adults. Awareness of atypical presentations is critical to facilitate early identification. Objective To assess how frailty affects presenting COVID-19 symptoms in older adults. Design Observational cohort study of hospitalised older patients and self-report data for community-based older adults. Setting Admissions to St Thomas' Hospital, London with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Community-based data for older adults using the COVID Symptom Study mobile application. Subjects Hospital cohort: Patients aged 65 and over (n=322); unscheduled hospital admission between 1March 2020 and 5 May 2020; COVID-19 confirmed by RT-PCR of nasopharyngeal swab. Community-based cohort: Participants aged 65 and over enrolled in the COVID Symptom Study (n=535); reported test-positive for COVID-19 from 24 March (application launch) to 8 May 2020. Methods Multivariable logistic regression analysis performed on age-matched samples from hospital and community-based cohorts to ascertain association of frailty with symptoms of confirmed COVID-19. Results Hospital cohort: Significantly higher prevalence of probable delirium in the frail sample, with no difference in fever or cough. Community-based cohort: Significantly higher prevalence of possible delirium in frailer, older adults and fatigue and shortness of breath. Conclusions This is the first study demonstrating higher prevalence of probable delirium as a COVID-19 symptom in older adults with frailty compared to other older adults. This emphasises need for systematic frailty assessment and screening for delirium in acutely ill older patients in hospital and community settings. Clinicians should suspect COVID-19 in frail adults with delirium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-48
Number of pages9
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number1
Early online date28 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021


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