‘Long COVID’ among challenges faced by elderly during pandemic

While a person is cured of the infection, the symptoms last for weeks or even months

August 21, 2021 12:11 am | Updated November 22, 2021 09:44 pm IST - Bengaluru

Effects of post-infection fatigue and difficulty can continue in older people for a long period of time.

Effects of post-infection fatigue and difficulty can continue in older people for a long period of time.

The past year and a half has been challenging for everyone, especially senior citizens. Apart from being one of the foremost groups in terms of vulnerability to COVID 19 – for which the proof is in the number of fatalities – some elderly people who contracted the infection ended up dealing with ‘long COVID’.

Doctors term ‘long COVID’ as a situation where a person who has contracted COVID-19 is cured of the infection, but continues to experience its symptoms for weeks or even months.

Speaking to The Hindu , Sweta Choudhary, head, medical products and services, Nightingales Home Health Services, said though COVID-19 affects all age groups, typically, most people have mild illness, some moderate, while a small percentage are critically ill.

“Generally, the symptoms resolve in three to six weeks. But some take months, which is called long COVID. They are not still infected, but experience distressing symptoms of the virus. Most common symptoms are fatigue, long-term weakness, joint pain, chest pain, lower grade cough, muscle weakness, brain fog, depression and anxiety, among others. We have had cases of senior citizens reaching out to us with these symptoms,” she said. Under their post COVID rehabilitation programme, there are a set of interventions developed, which is preceded by analysing which system has been affected more - cardiovascular, respiratory or the nervous system, after which a strategy is devised, she added.

Dr. Choudhary urged the elderly to not take long COVID-19 lightly and said one should reach out to a family physician or the nearest medical facility as they already have other problems, low immunity and even chronic diseases.

Pretesh Kiran, associate professor, community health, coordinator, Senior Citizen Health Service, St. John’s Medical College, said what happens as a result of COVID-19 is that there is some amount of residual morbidity which remains. “Given some of the issues of the elderly in terms of compromised lung function, co-morbidities, lower immunity, etc. there have been cases of individuals who suffer some amount of fibrosis in the lung due to which they have difficulty in breathing. This may take a longer time to heal compared to younger individuals. Mucormycosis has also occurred in some of the elderly, especially those with co-morbidities,” he said.

Long-term effects

These have had higher treatment, longer recovery time, and some have also succumbed, he said, adding that long-term effects of post infection fatigue and difficulty could continue in older people for a longer period of time.

Dr. Kiran also expanded on the toll COVID-19 takes on a patient’s mental health.


“An older person would require some amount of counselling as there is that fear and stigma that it will take longer for them to recover, given that during the first wave, mortality and morbidity was more in the elderly. Apart from hospital-based interventions, a comprehensive multi-pronged approach is required. While the role of the medical fraternity is in identifying issues early and addressing them, the role of families, carers and the support system back home plays a very important role in identifying problems early,” he said.

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