Researchers at the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference presented evidence of a link between COVID-19 and long-term memory problems. Additionally, they believe they have found a second link between COVID-19 and the markers of Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists are quick to point out the evidence requires further investigation and peer review. Still, the potential impact of new or worsening neurological problems is concerning. Despite these challenges, rehabilitation specialists are finding that already-tested strategies provide hope for slowing progressive damage.
What the Researchers Discovered
Following COVID-19, researchers have found some patients have persistent cognitive problems. With the same diagnostic imagery used to detect signs of Alzheimer’s, they discovered brain changes like those of the neurodegenerative disease. In addition, genetic testing shows there is some evidence the genes that make someone more susceptible to severe COVID-19 may be the same as those that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Who Is at Risk?
Patients over 60 who have had severe COVID-19 are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Still, memory loss, fatigue, mood changes, and other overlapping Alzheimer’s symptoms are found through all ages after severe COVID-19 illness. For these younger groups, Alzheimer’s-like symptoms can last for many months, and not much is known about the long-term progression. Therefore, understanding what you can do to help your loved ones is crucial to reducing anxiety and better outcomes for everyone.
Brain-related changes from COVID-19 may leave patients and care partners fearful or angry. It’s important to recognize these reactions are normal, and it is important to acknowledge them. However, it is also important to remember there are strategies to help your loved one stay active and engaged.
- Provide encouragement during rehabilitation activities. Some patients need help in regaining their strength after COVID-19, which can involve physical and occupational therapy. Your participation and encouragement can provide a boost of positivity to your loved ones.
- Keep daily routines. Waking up and going to bed at the same time supports cognitive function and proper rest. Knowing you will check in with them in the morning or afternoon creates a sense of security and promotes mental health wellness.
- Encourage independence. If your loved one is experiencing COVID-19 induced memory loss, there are likely some things they can still do on their own. It’s important to allow them to do things they are comfortable performing independently if it is safe to do so.
- Provide memory cues. Your loved one may need help to remember names, words, or appointments. Being patient, providing written instructions, and encouraging them to keep a journal of writing or pictures can provide them with a greater sense of control and independence.
It can be difficult to adapt and manage if your loved one is struggling with neurological problems after an already stressful COVID-19 illness. Gianna Homes understands the complex emotions and challenges both you and your loved one face. Contact us today for guidance, support, and answers to your questions or concerns.