Older adults who have survived covid-19 are more likely than younger patients to have persistent symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, muscle aches, heart palpitations, headaches, joint pain, and difficulty with memory and concentration — problems linked to long covid.
But it can be hard to distinguish lingering aftereffects of covid from conditions common in older adults such as lung disease, heart disease, and mild cognitive impairment. There are no diagnostic tests or recommended treatments for long covid, and the biological mechanisms that underlie its effects remain poorly understood.
“Identifying long covid in older adults with other medical conditions is tricky,” said Dr. Nathan Erdmann, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s school of medicine. Failing to do so means older covid survivors might not receive appropriate care.
What should older adults do if they don’t feel well weeks after becoming ill with the virus? I asked a dozen experts for advice. Here’s what they suggested.
Seek medical attention. “If an older person or their caregiver is noticing that it’s been a month or two since covid and something isn’t right — they’ve lost a lot of weight or they’re extremely weak or forgetful — it’s worth going in for an evaluation,” said Dr. Liron Sinvani, director of the geriatric hospitalist service at Northwell Health, a large health system in New York.
But be forewarned: Many primary care physicians are at a loss as to how to identify and manage long covid. If you’re not getting much help …