Long COVID is affecting 1 in 4 seniors, according to a new study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Long COVID refers to ongoing or new health problems occurring at least four weeks after a COVID infection. 38.2% of COVID-19 survivors experienced one of the following conditions: heart, lung, pain, fatigue, kidney and gastrointestinal issues, loss of taste or smell, mental health issues, etc. 

Most Common Symptoms 

Among the study’s 26 conditions, the most common were respiratory and musculoskeletal pain. Seniors aged 65 years and older possess a higher risk for neurological conditions and mental health issues from mood disorders to substance abuse. Another study from Northwestern University indicate many suffering from long-term COVID symptoms ranging from brain fog, joint pain, headaches, and numbness to difficulty with memory and concentration well over a year after the initial infection. It can be difficult, however, to distinguish the effects as there are no diagnostic tests or recommended treatments for this still poorly understood virus. 

What should older adults do if experiencing these symptoms? 

Medical expertise is vital 

“If an older person or their caregiver is noticing that it’s been a month or two since COVID and something isn’t right — they’ve lost a lot of weight or they’re extremely weak or forgetful — it’s worth going in for an evaluation,” said Dr. Liron Sinvani, director of the geriatric hospitalist service at Northwell Health, a large health system in New York. It is vital they receive attention to avoid further complications down the road. 

Consider more comprehensive care 

With the increased need of physical and occupational therapy or cognitive rehabilitation due to the compounded effects from COVID and aging, it is important to consider comprehensive care. Many patients with long-haul COVID feel like they now have dementia, but “all their higher-level cognitive functioning is intact, and it’s things like attention or cognitive fluency that are impaired.” Consider a home care agency to provide your loved one with assistance to regain the ability to manage their daily tasks around the house. Whether it is for a few hours or more a day or per week, this help can provide the essential support needed in recovery from long COVID. 

Slowly add physical activity 

Many experience “deconditioning,” or loss of strength and fitness, during a severe illness. Set priorities but ease into physical activity slowly. It is advised to drink more fluids to maintain electrolyte balance and consider wearing compression socks. Start with five to ten minutes a day on a recumbent bike or rower, adding a few minutes every week. Restrict time spent on cognitive tasks to allow for cognitive rest. The focus is to allow the body to recover. This is not the time to push through discomfort as it will actually make it worse or slow the recovery process. 

As long COVID is still a new pathology not well understood, it is vital for older adults to know that there is no shame in asking for help. Just because they say they are fine, don’t assume they are. Be proactive and find out how they are really doing so they can receive the appropriate care they need to be happy and thrive. 

 

 Interested in learning how a caregiver can help you with monitoring symptoms? (Click here)

Sources:

1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7121e1.htm?s_cid=mm7121e1_w 

2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acn3.51570