By now, we all know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But many people, especially seniors, are experiencing symptoms that aren’t typical – and those symptoms can last for quite some time.
Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 infections in older adults and what to expect in the long run:
COVID-19 in Older Adults
Senior citizens don’t always display the same signs and symptoms of a coronavirus infection as younger adults. Instead, seniors may just seem “off” or like they’re not acting like themselves. They may sleep more or less than usual, stop eating, or appear confused. They may become dizzy or stop speaking. They may even collapse.
Because seniors often have underlying health conditions to begin with, it may not be obvious that these atypical symptoms are the cause of COVID-19. Unfortunately, missing the early signs of COVID, or attributing them to something else, can stop your older loved one from getting the proper care. In addition, people may go in and out of their homes without adequate protection measures, further spreading the infection.
As many people have learned, the troublesome effects of COVID-19 don’t necessarily stop after you’ve tested “negative.” This is especially true for older adults.
Many seniors who’ve become critically ill from the coronavirus report an ongoing “brain fog” – difficult putting thoughts together or problems with concentration – even after the virus has subsided. This can make it challenging to plan out their day-to-day activities, remember appointments, or even have a conversation.
Other reported issues include muscle and nerve damage, continued shortness of breath, lethargy and fatigue, and depression or anxiety.
According to Dr. Zijian Chen, medical director of the Center for Post-COVID Care at Mount Sinai Health System, while many younger adults experience these same issues, seniors tend to have “more severe symptoms, and more limitations in terms of what they can do.”
Recovery for older adults may take months, not weeks. Many of those who were critically ill may still feel unwell after a year or more and can require rehabilitation services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or cognitive rehabilitation.
A Long Road Ahead
Researchers have found that frailty, a clinical condition caused by lack of reserves or energy, leaves those recovering from COVID-19 at risk for sudden changes in health and a higher risk of needing hospitalization or long-term care.
Older adults, especially, may suffer from Post-intensive Care Syndrome – a group of psychological, cognitive, and physical disabilities that may develop after treatment in the intensive care unit.
To help combat these ill effects, doctors suggest starting various therapies as soon as a COVID-19 infection is discovered. Treatments to assess lung capacity, improve cough effectiveness, and increase trunk muscle strength may help reduce the care needed later and lead to less pain.
They note that an emphasis on recovery and rehabilitation is significant for seniors because there is often a limited window in which they can improve. Once muscle strength, function, and flexibility are lost, they can be exceedingly difficult to restore.
While recuperating from COVID-19 may be challenging for our nation’s seniors, it’s not impossible. Catching the virus early in combination with the appropriate therapies can help facilitate a quicker and more complete recovery.
ComForCare can help make the recovery process more manageable. Our in-home care specialists are not only highly qualified, but they’re also kind and compassionate – and whether your loved one requires 24-hour care or only a ride to the doctor, we’ve got you covered. Reach out today to learn more.