John, 74, became infected with SARS-CoV-2 in May 2020, before a vaccine was available. He has long-term asthma and therefore sought medical care immediately. John was hospitalized for ten days and received supplemental oxygen but did not need a ventilator.
Before being admitted to the hospital, John fell several times. He was trying to care for himself while ill. John is married. He and his wife, Lou, live in Arizona. However, Lou is caring for their daughter, who lives alone in Maryland, has multiple medical conditions, and recently contracted COVID-19.
John was discharged with no supportive assistance. After a day at home, it was clear that he could not manage his medications, oxygen, and wound care.
What are the common symptoms of COVID-19?
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has caused a worldwide pandemic and has taken the lives of over 5 million people (as of November 1, 2021). The disease presentation associated with COVID-19 range from mild respiratory infections to serious and even life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Symptoms commonly appear between two and fourteen days after exposure. Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of the sense of taste or smell
- Sore throat
The typical symptoms of COVID-19 have evolved somewhat throughout 2020-2021. Initially, fever, cough, and shortness of breath were typical symptoms. With newer variants, symptoms now include upper respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Are COVID-19 symptoms different for seniors?
Older adults with COVID-19 may not display fever or respiratory symptoms. With aging, the immune response may be blunted, and the ability to regulate body temperature may be altered. Underlying medical conditions can also make diagnosing COVID-19 more difficult.
Symptoms of COVID-19 in older adults may include:
- New-onset dizziness
- New-onset loss of the sense of smell or taste
Other symptoms seen in older adults with COVID-19 include weakness, falls, and difficulty walking or getting out of bed.
John’s first symptoms were an overwhelming feeling of fatigue that he blamed on allergies and overdoing it the weekend before while working in his yard. When he fell several times and suffered fairly significant skin tears, he knew something was not right.
Over the next few days, he developed a low-grade temperature and a lingering cough. He contacted his primary care doctor and tested positive for COVID-19. As his symptoms worsened and he was hospitalized, he experienced periods of confusion and agitation, again, not typical for him.
How long can long COVID last?
Typically, most people recover from COVID-19 within a few weeks. However, about 10% to 20% of those infected with COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms that last four weeks or more after being diagnosed.
On October 6, 2021, the World Health Organization defined long COVID.
“Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.” — World Health Organization (WHO).
What are some of the lingering side effects of COVID-19?
In some people, symptoms are continuous after diagnosis. In others, the pattern is more of remission and relapse. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, and cognitive symptoms.
Lingering symptoms can affect any body system. Many people experience:
- Brain fog
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Kidney dysfunction
- Newly diagnosed or worsening diabetes
What are some neurological long-term side effects of COVID-19 after recovery?
Older adults with COVID-19 are more likely to experience neurologic symptoms associated with COVID-19. For example, in a study of 5,000 adults, all over the age of 65, who were hospitalized in March and April 2020, more than a third had an altered mental status, including symptoms such as difficulty walking, fatigue, fainting, dizziness, confusion, agitation, and lethargy.
Lingering mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety and cognitive symptoms can add additional burdens to people recovering from COVID-19. Long-term symptoms can adversely affect the ability to hold a job and follow through on personal responsibilities.
The inability to taste or smell, another neurologic symptom, can persist for months.
Older adults tend to have more pre-existing conditions, which increase their risk for complications from COVID-19. This, coupled with a less-robust immune response, increases their risk of secondary infections.
It is not unusual for older adults who are recovering from COVID-19 to require supplemental oxygen and additional time to regain their strength. As a result, many will be discharged from the hospitals to an acute rehabilitation facility or a skilled nursing facility.
How can home healthcare help you recover from COVID-19?
Lou was torn between being with John in Arizona and their daughter in Maryland. The fact that she could not secure a flight home led her to call Sunland Home Care & Medical to see if they could help. Finding private home care helped make her much more comfortable with her decision to stay with their daughter.
Sunland nurses came to their home daily to check John’s wounds, assess his respiratory status and dispense his medications. Lou also arranged for a one-on-one caregiver to come to their home four hours per day until she could return home. The Sunland caregiver assisted John with his personal care and hygiene needs, prepared his meals, did light housekeeping, and took him to his doctor’s appointments.
Two weeks later, Lou could return home. She was so happy with the care John was receiving; she arranged for the Sunland private duty nurse to continue caring for John for several more weeks.
Sunland Home Care & Medical can:
- Manage wound care.
- Administer antibiotics and other medications.
- Screen for signs of infection.
- Monitor nutritional status.
- Monitor respiratory status.
- Clean wounds and change bandages.
- Work with your wound care doctors.
- Monitor skin for signs of infection or dead tissue.