Rehabilitating Patients with COVID-19: Who Needs It and How to Provide It

COVID-19 has presented a unique set of challenges for rehabilitation services around the world. While these services are typically among the most severely disrupted by the pandemic, the need for them has actually increased due to the long-term consequences of the virus. At UW Medicine, specialists in all areas of medicine, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, rehabilitation psychology, vocational rehabilitation and social work, are available to help those affected by COVID-19. In order to free up health personnel for intensive care services and minimize risk to patients, many services have been reduced or adapted. For example, remote evaluation and remote treatment services have been developed.

The Clinical Management of Patients with COVID-19 course series is dedicated to the rehabilitation of patients with COVID-19. Patients who are seriously ill from COVID-19 are likely to need rehabilitation during and after their acute illness. Physical weakness and generalized weakness are obvious goals of treatment in rehabilitation, but cognitive changes are often less evident at first and can pose a major risk to patient safety. People with pre-existing long-term disabling conditions may not be able to access rehabilitation services. The complexity and variability of the damage caused by COVID-19 means that there is no single method specific to determining the need for rehabilitation.

However, mood changes should be a main goal of treatment since anxiety and depression can cause the rehabilitation process to fail and lower overall quality of life when recovering from any illness. At Michigan Medicine, my colleagues in neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology treated patients exclusively through video when infection rates were still very high. Everyone who treats these patients wants them to thrive, but may not know the extent to which rehabilitation can help.

Blanche Taboada
Blanche Taboada

Lifelong internet geek. Award-winning twitter fanatic. Award-winning bacon enthusiast. General zombie practitioner. Passionate zombie maven.