COVID-19 has affected us all in some way or another.
So you or a loved one who battled COVID-19 has been discharged to home from the hospital or rehabilitation. What’s next? What should I be focused on during my return to home?
Your discharge instructions from the care provider are paramount. Follow these instructions to the maximum extent possible. But some discharge instructions don’t cover rehabilitation.
We’ve treated patients who have had COVID-19. The main issues: shortness of breath. Fatigue. Stamina/functional endurance deficits. Difficulty breathing. Brain fog. Cough.
How do you get stronger, get your endurance back? A home exercise program and walking program is the key. Try to gradually increase your overall movement each day by at least 1-2%. Whether through walking, activities of daily living, repetitions or sets in an exercise program.
Keep a journal of your activities so you can track your progress in reps, walking distance, ADLs.
Make sure not to overdo it. We call this “energy conservation.” There’s several components to this. The P’s! Prioritizing. Pacing. Planning. Prioritize tasks that are most important. Plan that task when you have the most energy (time of day). Pace yourself, breaking up that task into pieces so as to not get over fatigued.
Another critical component of energy conservation is breathing! The hallmark of post COVID-19 is shortness of breath, difficulty breathing with activity. Address this through a simple breathing technique called pursed lip breathing. Very easy but very hard at first. Take deep breath in through your nose for 3-4 second duration, exhale all that air through your mouth for 4-5 seconds, repeat 10 times. Remember to focus on breathing with stomach/abdominal muscles instead of upper chest.
As a therapist in home health, I’ve seen multiple folks recovering from COVID. Some are sent home with supplemental oxygen due to low oxygen saturation levels (the percentage of oxygenation in arterial blood). We set them up with the components I’ve listed, but we dive deeper into these areas. We monitor their oxygen saturation, inspect/educate on safely managing supplemental oxygen equipment, among many other aspects. They get better!