We’re still learning things every day about COVID-19 and its mutations. Guidance on how to best treat the virus and promote optimal recovery after infection is very fluid, constantly changing as we gather more information about the normal path of disease progression versus symptoms that are outliers. One thing that is becoming more and more evident is that some COVID-19 survivors require post-illness rehabilitation and recovery to return to their pre-COVID levels of functioning. Some doctors have coined this collection of post-COVID symptoms as “long COVID”, and it is characterized by overwhelming fatigue and cognitive changes.
Physical Rehabilitation & Recovery
There are many ways that COVID-19 can take a physical toll on a person’s body. Patients with severe cases may lie in ICU beds for weeks using a mechanical ventilator to breathe. Even those who are not hospitalized may spend extended amounts of time in bed at home. This amount of time without any physical activity can atrophy muscles and lead to extreme weakness once the worst part of the virus has passed. Survivors are finding themselves unable to walk, talk, and complete the activities of daily life as they were prior to becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus. Physical and occupational therapy is often needed to help these people return to a reasonable level of functioning where they can do things such as bathe, get dressed, and even eat on their own again. As should be expected, the elderly and those with already compromised physical functioning are the most likely to experience these severe physical ramifications of the COVID-19 virus.
Mental Rehabilitation & Recovery
Doctors are reporting an uptick of COVID-19 survivors presenting with varying levels of delirium and cognitive issues after a COVID-19 infection or hospitalization. The virus seems to affect people’s cognitive processing speed, attention span, and ability to analyze visual information the most, although patients have reported a wide variety of mental symptoms. The amount of time a patient spends on a ventilator, their age, and their previous history of neurological impairment seems to have a direct correlation with their decline in mental capacity during a COVID-19 infection, but more targeted research is needed.
Since mental impairments are often not as easy to identify or treat as physical issues, more efforts must be made to begin mental rehabilitation before hospital discharge and seamlessly transition patients who need continued rehab to an appropriate outpatient facility or physician. Hospitals are increasing their inpatient rehabilitation capacity to accommodate this increase in need, but there is much more work that needs to be done to ensure that COVID-19 survivors are not left with lifelong mental impairments due to a lack of treatment options.
Emotional Rehabilitation & Recovery
We are very apt not to take the emotional implications of a COVID-19 infection as seriously as the physical or mental problems, but for many people, the emotional disturbances created by this disease process end up being the most debilitating. Depression, anxiety, and even PTSD-like symptoms are common amongst COVID-19 patients and survivors, as they deal with spending weeks or months isolated away from familiar faces and torn from their normal routines. Outpatient facilities and primary care physicians must lead the charge in proactively inquiring about post-COVID emotional problems, identifying issues that require further care, and following through to make sure that patients receive the care that they need. Physicians should consider making connections with local mental health professionals, such as psychologists and therapists so that they can refer patients who need intensive emotional care to these specialists.
Post-COVID Evaluation in Tampa Bay
If you’re dealing with the after-effects of a COVID-19 infection, the expert medical team at TLC Medical is here to help! We offer post-COVID care at all four of our Tampa Bay locations, including Tampa, South Tampa, Westchase, and Plant City. We will work with you to understand your post-COVID symptoms and develop a treatment plan that gives you back the quality of life that COVID-19 stole from you. Contact us at (813) 874-1852 or simply walk into any of our locations during business hours to start your post-COVID care today!