Long-Term Memory Effects of COVID-19

Penny Patnaude, founder of Caregiver Strategist LLC

A new study has found cognitive deficits in patients previously hospitalized for COVID-19. Individuals in the study are known as “long-haulers,” people who have suffered for six months or longer with the virus.

The majority of patients experienced neurological issues during hospitalization. Patients with encephalopathy, when discharged, reported needing some type of care assistance. The mortality rates were higher for people diagnosed with encephalopathy in addition to COVID.

Similarly, a UK study of 84,000 people who recovered from COVID reported a significant mental decline. Upon returning home, Covid-19 patients described cognitive deficits as: “foggy, unclear, the inability to focus or concentrate”; these symptoms are also called “brain fog.”

Word recollections and other tests after hospitalization represented the survivors’ measurement of cognition. These types of tests are used to diagnose Alzheimer’s and different brain aptitudes. Some recovered subjects experienced “brain aging of 10 years.” The benchmark for this study submitted comparison results from similar demographic population tests of non-infected participants.

The studies mentioned here found encephalopathy in older patients, with no specific mention of ages. A lack of oxygen or being on a respirator for an extended period may cause memory issues. The memory problems after recovering from COVID may affect individuals under the age of 50 with no familial history of memory loss. Younger individuals seem to have milder symptoms than their older counterparts. Physicians’ primary concern for the young population most likely focuses on breathing, leaving the brain unchecked and questions unanswered.

Evidence from these studies needs further research to determine how COVID affects people both neurologically and cognitively. Is encephalopathy the only or main factor responsible for the memory loss of patients diagnosed with COVID? How quickly will individuals with early-onset dementia or mild cognition decline if they recover from the virus?

Long-term studies must investigate and determine who and how cognitive, neurological complications concerning brain functioning and memory are affected by COVID. Research needs to identify benchmarks, age categories, gender, and prior diagnosis of memory problems.

Team collaborations (including Physical, Speech, Occupational, Activity, Aides, and Nurses) make patient observations and evaluations. Evaluations can provide benchmarks. Quarterly comparisons of cognitive abilities using art projects, reading, writing, dexterity, and other measures will help identify mental decline and, in a few cases, small improvements.

COVID survivors returning to senior living centers should be monitored for cognitive or neurological changes. Additionally, taking proactive steps with current healthy residents may help medical professionals seeking to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 on memory.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Featured Articles , Resident Care